The fiftieth novel in the 87th Precinct series, Ed McBain returns to Isola, where detectives Meyer Meyer and Steve Carella investigate a murder which leads them to the seedy strip clubs and bright lights of the theater district.
In this city, you can get anything done for a price. If you want someone's eyeglasses smashed, it’ll cost you a subway token. You want his fingernails pulled out? His legs broken? You want him more seriously injured? You want him hurt so he’s an invalid his whole life? You want him skinned, you want him burned, you want him—don’t even mention it in a whisper—killed? It can be done. Let me talk to someone. It can be done.
The hanging death of a nondescript old man in a shabby little apartment in a meager section of the 87th Precinct was nothing much in this city, especially to detectives Carella and Meyer. But everyone has a story, and this old man’s story stood to make some people a lot of money. His story takes Carella, Meyer, Brown, and Weeks on a search through Isola’s seedy strip clubs and to the bright lights of the theater district. There they discover an upcoming musical with ties to a mysterious drug and a killer who stays until the last dance.
The Last Dance is Ed McBain's fiftieth novel of the 87th Precinct and certainly one of his best. The series began in 1956 with Cop Hater and proves him to be the man who has been called “so good he should be arrested.”
The 50th novel of the 87th Precinct is one of the best, a melancholy, acerbic paean to life--and death--in the fictional big city of Isola. The story begins with death: detectives Meyer Meyer and Steve Carella are questioning Cynthia Keating, whose father lies lifeless in a nearby bed. Cynthia claims she hasn't touched Andrew Hale since she discovered his body, but the cops suspect she's lying: for one thing, the corpse's feet are blue from postmortem lividity, a sign of death by hanging. The detectives' doubts turn darker when, after Cynthia admits she found her father hanged and, in shock, laid him down, the M.E. rules that Hale was murdered. Carella asks stoolie Danny Gimp to listen to the drums on the street for any hints of the killer. Danny calls back for a meet but is gunned down before Carella's eyes by two shooters, who escape. Much shoe leather hits the pavement before the cops find a possible motive: Hale left Cynthia the rights to a play now in preproduction as a major musical. If it's a hit, she and three other heirs stand to gain a fortune--and Hale, the cops further learn, had refused to okay the production while alive. The dicks thus take their investigation into the bustling worlds of theater and high society, which McBain observes tartly. Further deaths ensue, further suspects arise, including a Jamaican hit man who sheds the blood of one of McBain's heroes. The closing of the case comes a tad easily to the cops and to the narrative, but overall this is McBain in classic form, displaying the writing wisdom gained over more than 40 years of 87th Precinct novels (the first appeared in 1956) to deliver a cop story that's as strong and soulful as the urban heart of America he celebrates so well.