Book Review: Ax by Ed Mcbain

I returned to the 87th Precinct and was treated to a short, sharp detective story as Detectives Carella and Hawes try to solve a brutal murder. The elderly janitor is found in the basement  of the building where he works, the victim of a brutal attack with an axe.

mcbain ax
Love the weirdness of the cover on the top left

The detectives struggle to find a motive for the vicious attack, and several possibilities run to dead ends. Is it connected to his mentally unstable wife? Or the small-time gambling that goes on in the building?

I think this is the shortest of the 87th Precinct cases so far, told in ten punchy chapters. McBain has stripped the story right back, there are no subplots or personal dramas this time around, just this one murder case that the cops have to slog through. The writing fizzes with McBain’s dark humour, poetic flashes and flair for dialogue and characterisation.

Despite the short format he still succeeds in injecting depth to his supporting characters and builds the case slowly, dropping little clues along the way which only really come together at the end. It’s also really interesting that this is a case of murder for extremely minor motivations, the brutality of the killing wholly disproportionate to the reasons behind it.

A quick read which grips you early on and doesn’t let go this is a fun, fast addition to the series.

Verdict: McBain’s skill isn’t diminished by the shorter style and this is a great quick read. Solid work from a master of the crime novel. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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