Meyer thought he would
die in a way unbefitting a heroic cop. He would die of heat prostration, and
the obits would simply say COP FLOPS. Or perhaps, if the news was headlined in
Variety, SOPPY COP DROPS.
‘How do you like this
Variety headline announcing my death by heat prostration?’ he said to Carella
as they entered another hockshop. ‘Soppy Cop Drops.’
‘That’s pretty good,’
Carella said. ‘How about mine?’
‘Let me hear it.’
‘SOPPY WOP COP
Lady Killer has a sense of urgency from the off. A young boy
delivers a letter to the police desk.
‘I will kill The Lady
tonight at 8. What can you do about it?’
The words are made from letters clipped from newspaper. It
could be a hoax. The detectives of the 87th can’t afford to treat it
that way and have to give it their full attention. If the letter is telling the
truth, they have a day to solve the case. And so the pressure begins.
As is often the case in the series, the weather in the city
is extreme. The tarmac on the roads is melting and people are desperate to find
some relief from the heat. McBain does his usual wonderful job creating the
picture and the temperature features as strongly as the characters themselves
and would be enough to get the reader to open a window even in the winter
The plot sees an investigation in which no stone is
unturned. The lab examines the letter. The paper on which it is made is
identified and tracked down. This takes the amorous Cotton Hawes to a bookshop
in which he manages to fall in love. Boys dressed like the delivery boy are
collected from street corners. Artist’s impressions are drawn. Every effort is
made to identify anyone known as Lady and this takes us from saunas to La Via
De Putas to the showy apartment of a musical star. No lead is strong enough and
the detectives become anxious about the ticking clock.
In the midst of their frustration, we meet the author of the
threat. He’s watching the detectives through a pair of binoculars that will
later give the team more clues to go on. We discover that the threat is no idle
one and that the motivation behind the letter is to give the police a chance to
stop him from committing the serious crime he has planned. He’s going to leave
a trail of clues that he feels should be easy to solve. Unfortunately, the
detectives struggle to get onto his warped wavelength.
The pace starts well and builds nicely to the exhilarating climax
and another really classy read.
A couple of things stand out to me in this one. The first is
that there is only the one crime being investigated. That’s unusual in my
experience to date. It’s often the weaving of different cases that helps to
keep the books moving forward with the suspense I enjoy. It also means that the
books usually have a range of tones and flavours that provide excellent
contrast and variety to appreciate.
Lady Killer doesn’t suffer at all for having only a single
investigation underway. There’s still a great range of characters to get to
know and with Cotton Hawes at the fore, we have another opportunity to get inside
If there’s a downside to this one, it’s a minor one. There’s
something about the ending that left me a tad disappointed. It was nothing I
can’t get over, yet it wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped. I’d happily take
opinions on that to see if you can persuade me otherwise. Let me know if you
have the time. And is there anyone else out there who thinks the title may be referring more to Hawes that anyone else? If there is, same goes.
Even with that minor point, it’s still a five-star read to
my mind and I already have the next one lined up for when I need a reading