Book Review: Doll by Ed McBain

This is a pretty dark and twisted entry to the 87th Precinct series, although the crime at the centre of it all is standard fare for Detective Steve Carella and his fellow officers. A successful model is murdered brutally, while her young daughter plays in the next room. Carella heads up the investigation, and soon comes to learn that the model’s perfect life may be marred by dark secrets.

mcbain doll

Lieutenant Peter Byrnes, is at the end of his tether with Bert Kling, the young detective who has been left embittered and jaded by the death of his fiancee (in Lady, Lady I Did It!). With Kling having a negative effect on the squad, losing his temper and  rubbing people the wrong way he wants him gone, but Carella asks to work with Kling, hoping to help the younger officer.

Unfortunately, Kling’s edginess hinders the investigation and Carella pursues a lead alone, placing himself in grave danger. Can Carella survive walking into the sadistic clutches of the villain? Will the rest of the 87th Precinct be able to retrace his steps and find out what happened to him? Can Kling overcome his grief and continue as part of the team?

I really enjoyed this book, even if it gets pretty dark in places. It helps that McBain is on top form with the writing, capturing the mindset of the different characters and writing several moving sections involving Carella’s deaf-mute wife Teddy. The case unfolds in interesting ways and given that it came out in 1965 there’s a surprising compassion and understanding to McBain’s writing on subjects like drug addiction.

The finale provides a pivotal moment in the series and it’s a testament to McBain’s skill as a writer that twenty books into the series he’s still crafting stories which go to new places and challenge our heroes. The writing contains his usual mix of insight into humanity, dark humour and a great ear for fast flowing, believable dialogue. Some of the links are explained a bit too quickly and easily, and the young witness is sidelined pretty early on, leaving me curious as to what became of her.

Verdict: 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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