It should have been the night that launched a new pop idol. Tamar Valparaiso is young and beautiful, with the body and voice of an angel, and the stage is set for her to launch her debut album, Bandersnatch, on a luxury yacht in the heart of the city. But halfway through her performance, while the partygoers look on helplessly, masked men drag Tamar off the stage and into a waiting speedboat.
Detective Steve Carella is just showing up for the graveyard shift when news of the kidnapping comes in. Working disjointedly with a Joint Task Force that calls itself "The Squad," Carella and the men and women of the Eight-Seven must find Tamar before time -- or indeed her very life -- runs out.
In this brilliant look at the music industry, Ed McBain once again combines his mastery of the form with the fast-paced dialogue and intricate plotting that have become his signature.
Amazingly, MWA Grand Master McBain remains as fresh and sharp-edged as ever in his 53rd 87th Precinct novel (after 2003's Fat Ollie's Book), which takes on the culture of celebrity. Bison Records' self-styled impresario Barney Loomis runs into a snag in his effort to catapult his newest performer, Tamar Valparaiso, to stardom. As Tamar is lip-synching the provocative video of her first album aboard a rented yacht, two men in Saddam Hussein and Yasir Arafat masks snatch her before a stunned audience. With his usual expert pacing, McBain alternates the action among a number of characters, including the kidnappers and Tamar; series stalwart Steve Carella, who must endure political maneuvering within a Joint Task Force of police bigwigs and FBI agents; and misogynist Ollie Weeks and his new amour, Det. Patricia Gomez. McBain injects enough humor to leaven the underlying tragedy the fate of a vulnerable, talented young woman. Although it's soon obvious who's behind Tamar's kidnapping, we don't read McBain for surprising denouements but for his true-to-life dialogue, skill at defining characters and effortless transitions. The Lewis Carroll theme provides an extra level of enjoyment. FYI: McBain is only one of two Americans (the other being Sara Paretsky) to win a Diamond Dagger, the highest award from the British Crime Writers Association.