CriminOlly thinks: Above par deaf man novel that amuses and fascinates in equal measure. 4/5
Title: Hark! | Author: Ed McBain | Series: 87th Precinct #54 | Publisher: Orion | Pages: 351 | Publication date: 2004 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: No
The joy of the Deaf Man novels is that they allow McBain to indulge his most playful side. ‘Hark!’ the penultimate 87th Precinct book is no exception. This entry sees Carella’s nemesis (now going under the name Adam Fen) deluging the precinct with clues to his next caper in the form of anagrams and palindromes. As ever, there isn’t really a clear explanation of why the master criminal should be tipping his foes off, but it’s so much fun you can’t really complain about it.
Aside from the Deaf Man’s antics, there is a load of character based content to enjoy here. Carella, coming to terms with his sister and mother’s double wedding to men he doesn’t approve of. Bert Kling’s jealousy threatening his relationship with Sharyn Cooke. Cotton Hawes and new girlfriend Honey Blair getting shot at. Plus an unexpected new romance within the squad-room. And of course there’s Ollie Weeks’ content, with the rotund detective finally finding the thief who stole his manuscript in ‘Fat Ollie’s Book’ and continuing to develop his relationship with Latinx patrol officer Patricia Gomez. McBain usually throws at least one of the ongoing character stories into these later novels, but to cover so many of them is unusual, but very satisfying.
This is one of the better Deaf Man books, silly but not over-complicated like some of them are. It’s funny, fun and keeps the reader guessing. The puzzles in themselves are very entertaining, whether you make the effort to try and decipher them or not. The Deaf Man continues to delight as a character, a joyous mix of evil genius and slightly pathetic loser. The richness of the character-based storylines definitely adds something, and it’s hard not to reflect on the fact that this was the penultimate novel in the series.
I’m a Fathead, Men!
I Am the Deaf Man!
Unscrambling the cryptic messages — anagrams, Detective Carella called them — delivered to the 87th Precinct confirmed that the master criminal who has eluded them time and again is not only alive and well, but may or may not be behind a deadly revenge shooting. For that matter, the Deaf Man may or may not be deaf. But he’s getting through loud and clear with clues drawn from Shakespeare’s works — taunting hints and maddening riddles pointing to his next plan of attack. It doesn’t take a literary scholar to know there’s no room for misinterpretation. For when the Deaf Man talks, everybody listens…or somebody gets hurt,
Content Warning: Racism, sexual violence
Tolerance Warning: All good