Wednesday, 29 August 2018

One Man's Opinion: 'TIL DEATH by ED McBAIN

Steve Carella's sister is getting married. On the morning of the wedding, Carella is called by his future brother-in-law (Tommy Giodarno) who needs some help. The first element of support relates to his worries about his impending wedding night. What's he going to do if he can't perform or his new wife is disappointed? The second issue comes in the form of a tiny package which has been left outside addressed 'To The Groom'. Inside it is a Black Widow spider. Tommy wants to play it off as a wedding day prank, but both men know that there's a more sinister intent in there somewhere. 

Carella has to think quickly. He enlists the help of Hawes and Kling and they shelve plans for the day to attend the celebrations and act as bodyguards. Meanwhile, Meyer Meyer is out on the streets chasing the only lead Carella can come up with, a disgruntled ex-serviceman who blames Giodarno for the death of his friend in Vietnam. 

As the day unfolds, the dangers to the bride and groom become all too real and the pace quickens nicely to it's electric climax. 

The plot is nicely put together. It stretches the imagination at points, but that's what books do. All the pieces fit. There are red herrings, blue herrings and green herrings which all keep the reader on their toes. The finite time and confined location work well in a time-honoured way and the story benefits from all the advantages these offer. 

What is particularly pleasing about this one is the insight into the lives and characters of the detectives. McBain adds details and layers to his characters in each book, but in 'Til Death (US) he drills down further than usual, particularly into Steve Carella's past. The wedding takes place in the home in which he grew up; we meet his parents; get to see his childhood bedroom; find out about the Italian community; feel the friction between him and his heavily pregnant wife as he meets an old flame on the dance floor; understand his loyalties to his sister and her beloved; experience his own nerves about becoming a father for the first time; and get a flavour of the relationships between him and his colleagues. We also find another window into Cotton Hawes and he mixes business with his pleasure and finds himself in uncharted waters in each. 

In short, this is an exciting and well-rounded read that is a must for fans of the 87th.  

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