First published in 1986, Tricks is the 40th book in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series. This entry is somewhat unique in that all of the action takes place during the course of a single day and night, a Halloween that is packed with more than a few tricks and not a lot of treats for the detectives of the 87th.
One of the cases involves the disappearance of a magician who finishes a performance in a high school auditorium late in the afternoon. His wife, who is also his sexy assistant, changes out of her costume, goes out into the parking lot and discovers that her husband’s props are scattered all over the place and he is nowhere in sight. When random male body parts then start appearing in garbage cans all over the precinct later than night, the news is not going to be good.
The second case involves a series of liquor store robberies and murders that first appear to be carried out by a group of children in their holiday disguises. Mom drops them off in front of the store; they race in and demand the money from the register and then shoot the person on duty. There seems to be a pattern to the crimes, but can the detectives anticipate from that where the next robbery will be in time to stop it?
Finally, Detective Eileen Burke is back working undercover after being seriously injured on her last assignment. She’s posing as a hooker in an attempt to snare a killer who’s picked up three women in the same bar and then murdered them. Burke is understandably nervous, even though she expects that the other members of her team will have her back. But will that really be the case if and when she needs them?
This is a very entertaining book, one of the better ones in the series, and fans of the series will certainly want to search it out. An easy four stars.