Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ed McBain is probably best known among crime fiction fans for his 87th Precinct series, but over a twenty-year stretch from 1978 to 1998, he also wrote a series featuring an attorney named Matthew Hope who lived in Calusa, Florida. Hope mostly dealt with routine issues like divorces and real estate closings, but every once in a while he got tangled up in a juicy murder case and whenever that happened, McBain stepped in to tell the tale.

In this case, Matthew is called by a young woman named Sarah Whittaker, the only child of a very wealthy man who has recently died. Shortly after the death of her father, Sarah's mother had her committed against her will to a mental hospital. The mother, the family attorney and a psychiatrist they have drummed up claim that Sarah is delusional and suicidal and that they have committed her for her own good. Sarah insists that she is perfectly sane, that there is a conspiracy against her, and that her mother is really after the $650,000 that her father left to Sarah. She wants Matthew to spring her from the asylum.

The young woman seems perfectly sane to Matthew, but he is the careful sort and investigates further before taking any precipitous action. Meanwhile, Matthew's friend, Calusa detective Morris Bloom, is knee-deep in a homicide case. The body of a young woman has surfaced out of the swamp after apparently being there for six months or so. The victim had been shot in the throat and her tongue had been cut out, all of which suggests foul play.

Matthew and Bloom commiserate with each other as they each pursue their respective investigations. In the meantime, Matthew has to deal with his troublesome ex-wife and with a particularly brash and sexy woman who wants to cook him fried chicken and jump his bones, although not necessarily in that order.

This is an entertaining book in an enjoyable series that doesn't take itself too seriously. Fans of the 87th Precinct novels might want to give Matthew Hope a try.

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