CriminOlly thinks: Highly enjoyable mix of humour, mystery and conventional thriller from the master, McBain 4/5
Title: Money, Money, Money | Author: Ed McBain | Series: 87th Precinct #51 | Publisher: Orion | Pages: 270 | ISBN: 9780752848396 | Publication date: 1st September 2001 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: Yes
In ‘Money, Money, Money’, McBain does that thing he sometimes does where he tries to weave a different style of book into one of his 87th Precinct mysteries. In ‘Ghosts’ it was supernatural horror, this time around it’s the kind of geopolitical thriller that was big in the 90s. For my money (lol), he makes a better fist of it this time around, but the shift in focus does feel a little jarring at times.
The first third or so of the book is a delight, with loads going on, including burglaries, a naked woman literally thrown it the lions and a random Secret Service agent. It’s wonderfully bewildering and I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling that McBain was deliberately messing with my head, combining a number of disparate elements that felt like they couldn’t be related, and yet clearly were.
As the book progresses, and the camera zooms out to give you a broader view, it works less well. The 87th Precinct suddenly feels like just a small part in a much larger world. I found it slightly odd, the sense that the walls surrounding this fictional place that I love were getting smashed down and reality was creeping in. There’s also a sub-plot about Arab terrorism that works to an extent, but feels somewhat less liberal in its outlook than you normally expect from McBain. On the other hand though, he tackles government abuses of power in a way that really works.
Those criticisms aside, it’s a cracking read. The complexities of the plot are handled with aplomb, it’s gripping, funny and compellingly readable. Fat Ollie is back and starting to thinking about starting as a career as a writer (a thread that will be picked up again in the next entry in the series, ‘Fat Ollie’s Book’). He’s as entertaining as ever, and has some brilliant banter with Carella. McBain also examines mortality, with Carella the most fragile we’ve ever seen him. This was at a time in McBain’s life when he was struggling with various health problems that would kill him a few years later. With that hindsight it’s a poignant read at times.
It is Christmas in the city, but it isn’t the giving season. A retired Gulf War pilot, a careless second-story man, a pair of angry Mexicans, and an equally shady pair of Secret Service agents are in town after a large stash of money, and no one is interested in sharing.
The detectives at the 87th are already busy for the holidays. Steve Carella and Fat Ollie Weeks catch the squeal when the lions in the city zoo get an unauthorized feeding of a young woman’s body. And then there’s a trash can stuffed with a book salesman carrying a P-38 Walther and a wad of big bills.
The bad bills and the dead book salesman lead to the offices of a respected publisher, Wadsworth and Dodds. This is good news for Fat Ollie, because he’s working on a police novel — one written by a real cop — and he’s sure it’s going to be a bestseller
Content Warning: Racism, drug abuse.
Tolerance Warning: Islamophobia