Romance by Ed McBain #BookReview

Romance is the name of a new play opening uptown–a play about an actress who gets stabbed. But when the lead actress really does get knifed, the spotlight turns to the guys from the 87th. It’s up to Detective Bert Kling, involved in a budding romance of his own, to get to the bottom of it all.

Title: Romance | Author: Ed McBain | Series: 87th Precinct #47 | Publisher: Coronet | Pages: 320 | ISBN: 9780340638163 | Publication date: 1995 | Source: Self-purchased

I’ve been powering through the 87th Precinct books in the last couple of months, having read 11 of them in quick succession, with only a few other things thrown in. I think that’s a pretty good measure of how enjoyable they are, and how McBain manages to stick to his central formula, whilst still making each book distinct and fresh. Having not taken the time to write a full review of one of them for a while, I thought I’d pause to consider this one in a bit more depth.

Many of the other recent entries which have multiple threads woven together. The last book ‘Mischief’ certainly did that, with a couple of mysteries (graffiti artists being murdered and old people being abandoned), a tense hostage negotiation storyline with Eileen Burke, plus the Deaf Man making an appearance. ‘Romance’ is far simpler, just one mystery and a character based sub-plot about Bert Kling’s relationship with police surgeon Sharyn Cooke.

The mystery is a really fun one concerning an actress receiving death threats and then being stabbed. The twist being that she’s in a play about an actress receiving death threats and then being stabbed. McBain does a great job with this, giving you just enough information to make you feel like you’re one step ahead of the cops, when in fact you aren’t at all. I found the denouement a tad less thrilling than it might have been, but it’s still a very entertaining read. At over 300 pages it’s a longish entry in the series, but he still manages to keep it gripping.

The sub-plot about Kling and Cooke is also good, with McBain exploring the challenges of being a mixed race couple in 90s America. The handling of the subject isn’t always as deft as it might have been, but it’s still thought provoking and credible in its romantic suspense. I’ve really enjoyed the ongoing character-based storylines that have run over the last few books, and the Kling/Cooke one is no exception to that.

Throw in the normal McBain highlights – cracking dialogue, humour and lots of digs at Hill Street Blues and you end up with a treat that any fan of the books will enjoy.


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