Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Deaf Man Returns to Taunt the Detectives of the 87th Precinct

The penultimate book in this long-running series is something of a disappointment. A clever career criminal named the Deaf Man, who has been bedeviling the detectives of the 87th Precinct for a very long time, returns to taunt them again.

After killing a woman who had previously betrayed him, the Deaf Man begins sending a large number of cryptic messages to Detective Steve Carella who has been his principal nemesis through the years. The messages are mostly quotations from the plays of William Shakespeare and some of them are coded in a variety of ways. The detectives correctly interpret the first of the messages as a confession of the murder that the Deaf Man has committed, but the rest of them are beyond confusing.

Carella and the other detectives assume that the Deaf Man is taunting them with the plans of an upcoming crime, and in the past, he's planned and executed some huge plots. But will the detectives be able to decipher the clues in time to disrupt their adversary's plans?

It's an interesting plot, at least initially. But it runs on and on and on as the deaf Man sends message after message after message, and by the time the reader is halfway through the book (well, this reader at least), you're screaming for McBain to get the hell on with things. Then, by the time the great caper is revealed it's more than a little anticlimactic and you're thinking, "Wow, I came all the way through this book just for this?"

The more interesting parts of the book involve stories of the personal lives of the characters that have been running on for the last few books in the series. Fat Ollie Weeks is still looking for his stolen novel; Steve Carella is still depressed about the upcoming double wedding of his mother and his sister, especially now that he's paying for it, and a couple of the other detectives are experiencing problems in their relationships. These diversions are fun and often very amusing, but the rest of the book really doesn't measure up to the high standards that McBain had established earlier. It's as though he came up with a clever idea and then got too carried away with it. This isn't a bad book, but it's certainly not one of his best.

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