Thursday, April 24, 2014

Two Cases Confound the Detectives of the 87th Precinct

First published in 1966, this is a solid entry in the 87th Precinct series. It's tighter and more focused than many of the books that preceded it and which, while very entertaining, contain a lot of extended commentaries about the weather, life in the city, and other such things that might charitably be described as "filler," seemingly designed to stretch out the stories.

In this book, two totally disconnected investigations occupy the time of the detectives of the 87th. The larger of the two cases involves a comedian named Stan Gifford who hosts one of the most successful variety shows on network television. Forty million people tune in to watch every week and thus eighty million eyes are focused on Gifford when he suddenly drops dead one night, three-quarters of the way through the show.

It quickly becomes apparent that Gifford was poisoned by a particularly fast-acting drug. The only problem is that there seems to have been no point during the show when anyone would have had a chance to give the victim the capsule in which the poison was contained. It's also difficult to figure out who might have wanted him dead. There's the possibility that Gifford might have committed suicide, but Steve Carella and Meyer Meyer will be conducting a lot of interviews, running a lot of tests, and scratching their heads for quite a while before they figure this one out.

In the parallel case, a stalker is pursuing an attractive young woman and he beats up a police patrolman who comes to her assistance. It's clear that the stalker poses a definite threat and Detective Bert Kling is assigned to track him down and to protect the woman in the interim. The only problem here (or one of several, actually) is that Kling and the victim have a history together, which is going to complicate matters considerably.

The author bounces back and forth between the two cases and, as always, provides a very entertaining evening's diversion for the reader. These books are more than a little dated now, especially given the fact that technology and investigative procedures have evolved so much in the last fifty years, but still, they're a lot of fun.

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