Book Report: Blood Relatives by Ed McBain (1975)

Book coverYou are not mistaken, gentle reader; I have written a book report on this 87th Precinct novel before (in 2006). I picked this copy up at the Friends of the Library book sale in May 2022, and as I noted then, I will pick up mid-career McBains when they’re cheap just in case I don’t already have them. This one has a mylar cover on it to protect the book jacket, but it is only a Book Club edition, so not that collectible. But nice nevertheless.

At any rate, this book is very focused on a single crime, unlike some later books which blended a number of plots, sometimes bringing them together but not always. A girl shows up at the 87th precinct with defensive knife wounds, and her cousin has been stabbed. As they were on the way home from a party, they stopped to outwait a downpour in a tenement/construction site when a man with a knife appeared and wanted the older (17-year-old) girl to perform unspeakable acts. So Carella and Kling investigate, finding a man sleeping off an evening drunk which matches the description, but he is not picked out in a lineup, and the blood on his shirt is not the victims. They look at the dead girl’s boss at the bank where she worked, who matches the description. Then the living cousin fingers her older brother for the crime, and the eventual discovery of the dead girl’s diary indicates it was probably not him.

When I re-read it in 2006, I remembered mostly a memo that appeared as an aside in the book–a police superintendent says that orders using rubber stamps should not be obeyed, but the order is signed by a rubber stamp. Carella puzzles over this for a page or two, and that’s all I remembered from a previous reading. But I remembered the plot, or at least whodunit, this read around.

The book is a brief 151 pages and makes use of the pasted-in interview notes, memos, and documents style where these appear in a different font. They pad out what might only have been a novella to short book length. I can see why McBain would later include more than one plotline in later books: He was moving from a paperback sensibility to a $25 hardback value-in-length mindset.

Still, I like his old stuff as much as the new, and I’m always happy to find them in the wild. Even if I come home to discover I already have it.

This book will fit into the 2024 Winter Reading Challenge Suspense category. It’s only a one-fer, though, as it doesn’t look as though it fits in other categories.

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