Cop Hater by Ed McBain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When Detective Reardon is found dead, motive is a big question mark. But when his partner becomes victim number two, it looks like open-and-shut grudge killings. That is, until a third detective buys it.
Cop Hater, originally published in 1956, begins the popular and long-running police procedural series of over 50 books written by the prolific Ed McBain. I have long been a fan of TV police dramas and recently picked up one of McBain's 87th Precinct mysteries, which was so good that I'm now starting at the very beginning.
McBain wrote a fascinating forward to this book in which he describes being approached by Pocket Books about writing a series of mysteries that would replace Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason books as he was nearing the end of his writing career. McBain lived in New York and was influenced by the old Dragnet series, which inspired him to write about big-city cops. But rather than featuring one cop, he decided that something fresh would be to write about "a squadroom full of cops, each with different traits, who-when put together-would form a conglomerate hero." The result was the groundbreaking 87th Precinct series.
This is a unique series and I loved Cop Hater. It's realistic (cops get killed), complex, and imaginative. Cops talk like cops. We're given insight into how cops feel about their jobs and families, and how women feel about being in a relationship with man who faces danger every time he walks out the door. There's spots of humor and a surprisingly tender romance between Det. Steve Carella and his deaf fiancé, Teddy.
Rather than an outdated book, this should be thought of as groundbreaking for its time. I actually loved the dogged detective work, determination, and intuitiveness used long before the days of modern technology. And the following quote by Lieutenant Byrnes - hard to believe McBain said this back in the 50s - gave me chills when I look around us today... "We can't let a cop be killed because a cop is a symbol of law and order. If you take away the symbol, you get animals in the streets."
I don't know if I'll get to read all 55 books in the series, but I'm sure going to try. Highly recommended to fans of police drama.
** Mainstream fiction with some profanity
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