Wednesday, 15 July 2020
One Man's Opinion: The EMPTY HOURS by ED McBAIN
The Empty Hours consists of three stories featuring the usual cast from the 87th Precinct. As the development of plot and character are important within the series, a part of me was concerned that the shorter works might not grab me in the usual way. I can say with total conviction that I needn't have worried. Each morsel is more a substantial meal than a snack. In many ways this is because the characters are so well-formed from their other outings that they don't need to be expanded, so the cases become more central to the enjoyment. Having said that, if this was your first encounter with either Carella or Myer or Hawes, I think you'd still feel totally satisfied by this collection.
The Empty Hours tells of a wealthy loner who turns up dead in her apartment. The case leads the detectives to a boating accident and a safe-deposit box and there's plenty of gratification to be found if you like to work things out just before the detectives because of McBain's excellent navigation.
J involves the murder of a Rabbi spattered in paint and left to die below the graffiti of the letter in the title. It takes the detectives into the word of anti-Semites and racist thugs and has Meyer thinking about his own Jewishness.
Storm sees our loveable giant, Cotton Hawes, the man who had a Mallen streak long before Catherine Cookson got there taking a beautiful dancer up the mountains for the weekend and winding up becoming involved in a murder when a young instructor is stabbed with a ski pole. This one's a particularly atmospheric piece and the conflict between the big city detective and the local sheriff is a treat.
I loved each of these. They're long enough to give a lot of satisfaction and short enough to get through them at a pace. Having finished them, I'm hoping that I'll come across more of a similar length in due course. The first story is strong, the second better still and the best is saved till last.
Terrific stuff and a great reminder that small really can be very beautiful indeed.
More information and fun can be found at the excellent Hark podcast here.