Review: The Mugger by Ed McBain (87th Precinct #2)

The Mugger, the second of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels, begins directly after the events of Cop Hater (although it’s in no way necessary to read Cop Hater first). Detective Steve Carella is away on his honeymoon, so McBain takes the opportunity to give us some quality time with some of the precinct’s other employees, notably rookie cop Bert Kling, who gets talked into an unauthorized murder investigation, and compact judo expert Hal Willis, who’s on the trail of the title villain, sometimes with Detective Eileen Burke (making her series debut).

No sophomore slump here, as The Mugger is in nearly every way an improvement on its predecessor. The mystery is better, and the characters are developing quite nicely. It’s also a bit darker, featuring a murdered teenager and vicious police brutality (which seems shockingly cavalierly treated).

[Minor spoiler below the fold]

The Mugger does have one major flaw–the reader never learns what drives the mugger to indulge in his distinctive and entertaining but foolhardy and self-destructive trademark flourish (“Clifford thanks you, madam!”). This is likely attributable to McBain crankin’ ’em out (there were two other 87th Precinct books in 1956, plus an Evan Hunter novel and a science fiction novel as Hunt Collins), but it’s still not excusable and prevents the book, barely, from being fully satisfactory. It’s satisfactory enough, though–The Mugger whizzes by at a mere 150 pages or so, leaving the reader eager to spend more time in the 87th with McBain’s wonderful creations.

Review: Cop Hater by Ed McBain (87th Precinct #1)

Review: The Mugger by Ed McBain (87th Precinct #2) (this post)

Review: The Pusher by Ed McBain (87th Precinct #3)

Reviews: The Con Man and Killer’s Choice by Ed McBain (87th Precinct #4 & #5)

Review: Killer’s Payoff by Ed McBain (87th Precinct #6)

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