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

Cover of Killer's Payoff by Ed McBain

A well-to-do man is shot in the face while walking in Isola. The weapon is, of all things, a hunting rifle. An informant tells Bert Kling at the 87th precinct’s detective desk that Seymour Kramer, the victim, was an extortionist, giving the detectives a likely motive. Was Kramer killed by one of his victims? And who are his victims?

In his introduction to the edition of Killer’s Payoff that I read, Ed McBain expands upon previous remarks about the pressure, some of it ridiculous, placed on him by his publisher to put Cotton Hawes front and center. Series mainstay Steve Carella, you see, was married, and that just wouldn’t do.

McBain makes it clear that he disdained this pressure. For starters, the 87th Precinct series was envisioned as an ensemble, and he wanted to keep it that way. McBain gets some petty revenge by making Hawes a bit ridiculous and not terribly sympathetic. He turns him into an unmitigated horndog, albeit a quite successful one. But Hawes does get more page time, as well as the denouement. After all, McBain had a series to get renewed.

Killer’s Payoff is another fine entry in this series, but with a significant flaw–the reader will almost certainly think of an obvious possibility regarding one of the novel’s situations that the police detectives do not even consider. It would not have taken a lot to fix this, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that this was less important to McBain’s editors than Cotton Hawes being a ladies’ man was. But the rest of the novel is classic 87th, which more than makes up for its one problem, and McBain’s characters–cops, criminals, and civilians alike–shine.

Posts in this series

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

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

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) (this post)