Monday, 18 August 2014

See Them Die

The 13th book with 87th Precinct on the cover is a bit of a curate's egg. McBain is sometimes experimental with his writing and the   formula sometimes gets a bit bent out of shape but this one is barely recognisably part of the series. There are a few scenes, mainly in the squad room, that are pure 87th but for the most part McBain chooses to tell a morality fable from the street. I don't think it surprises me that this was written not long after West Side Story had exploded with nuclear impact on Broadway for the first time. Although the story kicks off with the chance meeting of three guys, all cut off from their roots, from different walks and stages of life, the story really only follows one of them. Zip is a young trouble maker who has moved to a new neighbourhood and having been bullied at his old one sets out to be top dog of his own little street gang.- The Latin Purples. He's sort of the very small cog by which the larger story turns. Unfortunately he's chosen a very bad role model in Pepe Miranda and so believes that the best way to make a reputation is by killing someone. He's gong to kill another young kid who was unlucky enough to say "Hello." to a girl that Zip likes.
Meanwhile, lest we forget who are heroes are, the cops have cornered Pepe in some apartments and lay siege. Lieutenant Pete Byrnes gets to dust off his megaphone and lead his troop of beat cops and bulls to winkle Pepe out and nobody on either side is looking to spare their bullets. Carella backs him up, but it's Frankie Fernandez, the precinct's only Puerto Rican bull and Andy Parker who are the main players on the law side of the tale. Parker is a cop who hits first and doesn't bother much listening to questions answered later. He's also racist as hell but doesn't understand why the objects of his racism are so touchy. With everything heating up at the height of summer it all makes for a boiling pot that's got too hot not to explode and the tough end of fate is going to decide who gets to walk away alive. Along with the sometimes preachy diatribe against racism McBain takes a hard look at fate and asks 'why can't things always turn out for the good?'.  I gave the book four stars for a story well told but if I was to score it as an 87th Precinct story I might only give it two or maybe three, the extra star only because it does have some pivotal plot action for some of the boys from the 87th.

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