CriminOlly thinks: These three 87th Precinct short stories are essential for completists, but probably not for anyone else. 3/5
Title: Reruns / Love or Money / Merely Hate | Author: Ed McBain | Series: 87th Precinct #48.5 / #53.5 / #54.5 | Publisher: Various | Pages: Various | Publication date: 1997 / 2004 / 2005 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: No
There are 55 books in the 87th Precinct series. 53 novels, one illustrated short story (the Christmas tale ‘And All Through the Night’) and one collection of three novellas (‘The Empty Hours’). Given how prolific a write Ed McBain was, it’s probably no surprise that isn’t the whole story. If that impressive 55 book tally wasn’t enough, he also published one other novella and one and a half short stories. They range from very easy to get hold of, to somewhat trickier, but obsessive completist that at I am, I’ve got hold of them all. Spoiler free reviews of all three are included below so that you can decide if it’s worth the effort.
Reruns, published in ‘TV Guide’ for 11th-17th January 1997 4/5
This is the hardest one to acquire (at least a reasonable price) but also the one I enjoyed the most. Published in US TV listings magazine ‘TV Guide’ to coincide with the airing of some new 87th Precinct TV movies. It’s a brief but fully formed mystery that sees Carella and Meyer investigating the burglary of the apartment of a jobbing actor. It’s slight and silly but charming for all of that, and packs a great deal of enjoyment into a very few pages.
Series wise this fits between ‘Nocturne’ and ‘The Big Bad City’.
Love or Money, 2004, available on the BBC website 3/5
This is the half story referred to above, published as part of a series where the BBC commissioned favour writers to start a story and offered members of the public the opportunity to finish it. The tale (such as it is) features Carella and Meyer interviewing witnesses at a restaurant following the death by poisoning of a food critic. Given its incomplete nature, it’s hard to review properly, but it does have McBain’s trademark snappy dialogue adds sets up the mystery nicely.
Fits between ‘The Frumious Bandersnatch’ and ‘Hark!’.
Merely Hate, 2005, published in the ‘Transgressions’ anthology 3/5
Published as part of an anthology of novellas which McBain edited, this is an interesting if not wholly successful story. It plays a bit like the b-plot in a broader novel, with Carella and Meyer on the trail of a killer who is murdering Muslim taxi drivers. The events of 9/11 clearly had an impact on McBain and it’s interesting to see them creeping into his post-2001 books. It’s probably most explicit, and most even handed, here, with a couple of sensitive scenes about American Islamophobia in the wake of the attacks. The denouement is a bit of a let down, but it’s still an interesting read.
Fits between ‘Hark!’ and ‘Fiddlers’.
Content Warning: Islamophobia
Tolerance Warning: All good