CriminOlly thinks: Not the greatest mystery in the 87th precinct series, but the humour has rarely been better 4/5
Title: Fat Ollie’s Book | Author: Ed McBain | Series: 87th Precinct #52 | Publisher: Mandarin | Pages: 368 | Publication date: 2002 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: No
Fat Ollie Weeks has grown and grown (no pun intended) as a character over the last few 87th Precinct books, so it feels completely appropriate that he pretty much gets a book of his own here. As you might expect, given Weeks’ personality, the emphasis in this novel is more on humour than on mystery. The result is definitely one of the lighter entries in the series, and a very enjoyable read as a result.
There are three stories woven together here: the shooting of a politician, a drug deal going bad, and a theft from Ollie’s car. It’s that last part that gives the book its name, the stolen item being the manuscript of a novel Ollie has written. That book (which is very short), exists within this one, and is an absolute hoot. His prose style is unique to say the least, but despite being terrible, McBain manages to make it very readable. The book is a written in the style of a police report about a stash of hidden diamonds. The thief, not recognising it as a work of fiction, tries to decipher the clues within to locate the jewels, which leads to some very amusing mix ups.
As you’d expect, being the focus of the book, Ollie develops further in its pages, from the horrific bigot he started out as, to someone a bit more sympathetic. A budding romance with a Latina cop helps with this, and it’s interesting to see how McBain manages to make such an awful character into something of a hero.
So the book has humour and colour to spare, but the mysteries are a little lacking. The one in Ollie’s book is deeply silly and the big man’s search for his missing manuscript is entertaining but lacking in tension. Even the main plot line, about the political assassination ends up being somewhat sub-par. It’s very easy to forgive that though, when the rest of the book is so much fun. It’s often laugh out loud funny and Ollie never been more entertaining.
All at once, Fat Ollie Weeks had a truly brilliant idea…But as any “real” writer could tell you, that’s how inspiration strikes — with the sudden force of a violent crime. Known more for his foul mouth and short temper than his way with words, Detective Weeks has written a novel. But just as Isola is rocked by the murder of a mayoral candidate, the only copy of Ollie’s manuscript is stolen — and an all-too-real adventure begins as a thief follows Ollie’s fictional blueprint to find a $2 million cache of nonexistent diamonds. Now, the 87th Precinct races to bring poetic justice to a cold-blooded assassin — and someone’s about to add another chapter to the colorful career of Ollie Weeks, a cop who’s never played by the book…
Content Warning: Racism, transphobia
Tolerance Warning: All good