Book Review

07/03/2012 § Leave a comment

Lullaby by Ed McBain

I read this book as an assignment for a literature class on mystery fiction.  I didn’t find the book particularly enjoyable, but since I read it, I thought I’d go ahead and review it.

Lullaby is somewhat long book, and is apparently part of a series on the 87th precinct.  The plot is fairly convoluted, as it follows four different stories simultaneously.  It only does one of them rather well, which is the main story, which revolves around a double homicide of an infant and babysitter.  The other three stories revolve around an attempted murder and drug bust, a minor property crime, and the travails of a female cop that was raped on the job.

Regarding the double homicide case, this particular story is a little too cute for its own good.  McBain deliberately hides the solution, making the reader follow along with the detectives’ investigation.  While the reveal might be surprising, it is only that way because readers are kept in the dark.  This gives the illusion of being clever without actually offering anything of substance.

The minor property crime is quickly dealt with, and is dropped once it beomes obvious that it is not connected to the double homicide.  (Both the homicide and the property crimes were in the same apartment building, close to the same time).  The attempted murder turned drug bust is also somewhat interesting, if for no other reason than its overt and imaginative racism.  Like the double homicide, this story pretends to be smarter than it is.  The rape victim’s story is unappealing since there is no background to the character, at least as is established in this book.

The two major weaknesses of this novel are that it is self-consciously stylized, and that it is part of a series and therefore does not stand very well on its own.

The former makes for annoying reading at times, as the author appears to have ADHD, flitting from story to story.  Additionally, the characters often think and speak in a collage of run-on sentences, as if this passes for New York style.

That it is part of a series is more forgivable; indeed, it reads like a cop drama.  If you like Hill Street Blues or Law & Order, this book is for you.  If not, the serialistic nature of the book will likely be a turnoff, especially as it assumes prior familiarity.

There isn’t much thematic death to the book.  It dwells on the themes of jealousy, greed, envy, and betrayal.  Nothing new is said on these subjects, and what is said is said in a manner that is decidedly inferior to the classics of the crime genre.

In all, the book is rather boring read, and overly convoluted to boot.  If you’ve already read the prior installments, you may as well give this one a whirl.  If you haven’t, don’t waste your time reading this; it will simply be an exercise in frustration.


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