Book Report: The Last Dance by Ed McBain (2000)

You know, I found this book in the second rank of books on my to-read shelves, so I’m not sure where I got it. Did I inherit it from my aunt? Did I buy it at the 80% off store last autumn? I cannot remember. All I know is that I was disappointed that an Ed McBain book made it to the back of my bookshelves without getting read. So I rectified the error.

This book represents the 50th 87th Precinct novel. Ponder that, if you will, and revere it. Ed McBain has produced fifty of these novels over the course of the last half century or so; considering that this one is five years old and that they’re coming fewer than one a year now, it’s worth our awe. Like Perry Mason novels, these books hold up well enough for people of a certain age, who remember a life without the Internet. We remember the typewriter and can accept books with reproductions of typewritten reports within them to lend authenticity. Damn kids wouldn’t understand.

This book gets away from that and actually mentions the Internet and mentions Steve Carella’s age. He’s just turned 40, which means I’ve almost caught up with him. If Ed McBain lives another decade, I’ll call Steve Carella a damn kid, and he was 35 when I was 15. Talk about unfair.

The book deals with a number of murders surrounding a revival of a 1920s musical and features a nuanced and ultimately dual-tragic plot. If you stop to think about what the primary (first) murder means, you’ll understand. But the boys from the 87th and Fat Ollie Weeks (of the 88th) get their workouts covering the City looking for clues in the brutal winter (that offers relief, even if the characters don’t know it, from the brutal summer).

Of course, if you don’t know the characters, perhaps the book proves a little hard to follow. Over the last three decades especially, we’ve come to know Carella, Meyer, Hawes, Brown, Parker, Byrnes, Kling, and Generro (wait, he’s not here; don’t tell me if I missed the book where he got it). But this series is proving more resilient than a number of television series, for crying out loud, and proves to be an old friend to which one can turn again and again (since books take longer than an hour minus commercials on television or DVD).

Okay, enough late night blathering. I liked the book, not only because it’s a good enough book in the genre replete with McBain’s poetic touches but also because it’s a link to my youth, when I read adult books in my middle school and high school years.