CriminOlly thinks: A fitting end to a wonderful series – gripping, funny and poignant. 4/5
Title: Fiddlers | Author: Ed McBain | Series: 87th Precinct #55 | Publisher: Orion | Pages: 228 | Publication date: 2005 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: No
Coming to the end of a series you love is always a bittersweet moment. That’s more true than ever in the case of ‘Fiddlers’. Evan Hunter died the same year it was published, making it his last published work as well as the final 87th Precinct mystery. As a long time fan, it’s hard to read it without reflecting on that.
The good news is that it’s an excellent end to the series. McBain pulls in many of the regular characters: Carella, Kling, Hawes, Brown, Genero, Parker and Ollie Weeks to investigate a string of shootings that seem to only be connected by the fact that the same gun was used in each. That single mystery takes up the whole book, backed up by the mini storylines about the lives of the characters that have become common in the later books. Kling’s relationship with Sharyn Cooke, Carella’s with his new mother’s second husband, Ollie’s with patrolwoman Patricia. All make enjoyable additions to the main plot, and if none of them reach a definite conclusion, nothing is left too badly hanging.
The main plot is where the action is though, and it’s a very enjoyable, if poignant, mystery. The investigations into the lives of the individual victims are handled separately, and all come together beautifully in a climax that see the different detectives independently identify the killer. It’s gripping and fascinating stuff, with McBain’s talent for creating incidental characters who convince completely in full effect. There’s also some great humour in the book, in particular a wonderful scene where the appalling Andy Parker gives Ollie Weeks relationship advice (“you’ve got to create the right ambulance….it’s a French word…”).
As sad as it is that such a brilliant series had to come to an end, it’s fitting that the final entry should be one that so encapsulates the best elements of the books and of McBain’s writing. Great mysteries, great characters and a view of humanity that includes the joy and laughter as well as the darkness.
It started with the blind violinist – shot twice through the head at point-blank range in the alley outside his dingy restaurant. It’s only when the omelette lady gets shot with the same gun in the same way 24 hours later that the 87th Precinct really starts to sit up and take notice.
Content Warning: Child Abuse, homophobia, racism
Tolerance Warning: All good