The 47th entry in the 87th Precinct series begins with Detective Bert Kling standing at a phone kiosk in the pouring rain, getting soaking wet making a call that he didn't want to make from the station house. He's calling a woman to ask her for a date and doesn't want to make the call in front of any of his colleagues, especially if the woman turns him down. He'd be nervous enough as it is, but the woman he's calling, Sharyn Cooke, is also a cop. And she outranks him. And she's black. Kling is a white man who's never dated a black woman before and he has no idea what the woman is going to think when he asks her out.
Shortly thereafter, a young actress named Michelle Cassidy appears at the station house after first calling Detective Steve Carella to report that someone is threatening to stab her to death. Oddly, she's currently in rehearsals for a really bad play called Romance in which she plays the female lead whom someone is threatening to stab to death. It's bad enough to be cast in a play that stinks, she says, but it really sucks when life imitates art and someone is threatening to kill you for real.
The detectives take her information, but they have very little to go on and, practically before they can take any action at all, someone stabs the poor woman as she's passing an alley. Happily, the wound is not fatal, but shortly thereafter Cassidy opens her apartment door to someone who finishes the job in fine style.
The two stories, Kling's attempts to romance Sharyn Cooke and the investigation into Ms. Cassidy's murder, constitute the backbone of the book. It's a very entertaining story, with some especially amusing scenes involving the self-important actors, writer, producers and others involved with the lousy play. They allege that they are heartbroken about the death of their leading lady, but truth to tell, the sordid details of her death are great publicity which will virtually guarantee that even a play this bad will be a hit.
My only reservation about the book is that is runs on a bit long and drains some of the fun out of the story in the process. As I noted in reviewing the last book in the series,Mischief, this book appeared in the mid-1990s, a time when the pulp crime novels of an earlier era that ran 60,000 words or so, were exploding into books a third again as long. Unfortunately, this didn't always mean that the stories were necessarily a third again as good. I enjoyed Romance, but it would have been better had it been a bit shorte