Book #2: Hail to the Chief

Re-posting my review from Un:Bound

Ed McBain is my go-to author, the guy I read when I just need to take a break from everything and have some fun. His groundbreaking 87th Precinct novels are pretty much the basis for every television procedural out there, including Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, and the various Law & Order series. He's also a hell of a writer: tough, unsentimental, and using the bare minimum of words required to convey precisely what he wants to at any given moment.

Written in 1973, Hail to the Chief comes almost 20 years after his debut in the series Cop Hater, and it still finds Detectives Carella and Kling, older, maybe wiser, but definitely more tired as the city they protect day in and day out continues to disintegrate around them. It begins in thew rain, in January, and six naked bodies are found in a construction ditch on the side of the road. Six bullet ridden corpses, one of which is a newborn baby. It's enough to make anyone think twice about what they do. The story revolves around who these six people are, how they came to be in the ditch, and the clues that lead to other bodies and a massive gang war in the heart of the city.

McBain uses a new technique to tell this story: in the second chapter we find out that the guilty party has been captured, and is confessing the entire story. The novel then alternates between his running commentary and the events that led up to his capture. It's a gritty look at a city whose nice sections are increasingly becoming smaller and smaller, and about the "cliques" that run the neighborhoods - some well, some not so well, and about what happens when the need arises to clean everything up with a gun and a grenade.

Like pretty every other book in the series, this is vintage McBain: fast, furious, and a hell of a lot of fun. I've been trying to track down all of his novels in order to read, but this isn't necessary to enjoy any of the 87th Precinct stories. Rush out and get reading already!