Book Report: Downtown by Ed McBain (1991)

I originally heard this book on audio book about a decade ago, when I spent a lot of time in my car. Ergo, I remembered the conceit of the book, but not much about the plot. I guess that happens, the details (that is, the whole plot) falls from your memory faster from audiobooks than from books you read, but that’s because reading is more engaging than listening while you’re doing other things, such as avoiding other people on the roads not content to merely listen.

This book is similar to Candyland in that someone who’s not a native New Yorker gets caught up in the crime-ridden life in New York. Instead of a randy architect, we get a mild-mannered orange grower up from Florida who has some time to kill before his flight leaves for home, so he talks to a woman in a bar. The woman is a con artist who, along with an accomplice, steals the contents of his wallet. A sympathetic ear at the bar listens to his story, and then steals his car. After he talks to the police and gets subway fare to the airport (in the days where you didn’t need ID to fly, apparently), he fights back in a mugging and is confused for the agressor by a cop. He flees, following the would-be mugger to a Chinese gambling den and catching a news upate that indicates that a film director, the sympathetic ear from the bar, was murdered in the car stolen from the protagonist and that the protagonist’s wallet was found on the scene.

So it’s a tour de force, absurd bit, but it drags you along.

It’s a good book, as you might guess would deem a McBain novel. Again, it’s a departure from the police procedural bread and butter, but it’s amusing as long as you take it as sort of a camp. You cannot help it, which attests to the skill of the writer. And although I enjoyed the audiobook, I probably enjoyed the actual book more. Hopefully, I’ll retain the plot a little longer in my memory.

Books mentioned in this review: