Friday, August 31, 2012

Vanishing Ladies (Ed McBain,1957)

Was never really a big fan of McBain but I had read recently The Gutter and the Grave and really liked it. So I was hoping for some more of that and gave a try to Vanishing Ladies that I’ve found second-hand in a local bookstore for couple of Euros. Must admit that it being pretty short and not taking place in that damn 87th Precinct also helped to decide a bit.

And I wasn’t lucky this time unfortunately because it is just an average mystery not worthy of great master’s signature. It feels like he did it quickly for fun or maybe in urge to fulfill some contract or shit like that.

Plot is somehow familiar Frantic variation. There’s a couple on their vacations visiting unfamiliar location/environment and she gets abducted while everyone surrounding her confused hubby pretend she didn’t exist in the first place. In this case our unfortunate hero is tough NYC policeman which makes his confusion and lack of ability to control the situation even worse. Plot soon thickens of course. There’s a mysterious prostitute, corrupted police, dodgy brothel at the town’s outskirts, our hero gets himself help from his cop friends and also another side-kick and we naturally get some corpses.
It sounds better than it actually is. The major problem I had is that it just sounds unreal and doesn’t really hold water. Without giving away too much, let’s just say – in economic jargon - that reasons for all the committed crimes and efforts for covering them simply don’t outweigh their potential financial gains. Maybe it the whole setup would be staged in the big city and would be controlled by some almighty mafia I would find it believable.

Also didn’t like the narration. Whole story is told in a flashback as a court testimony which is just ridiculous when you think about it. Maybe McBain considered this approach inspiring or tried to add new touch to classical detective first-person telling style but it just doesn’t work. There are too many dialogues (and good ones needs to be said!) and personal observations to make it consistent and narration fluid. Plus there’s another testimony in the middle of the book from hero’s cop friend and it just adds to overall confusion. 

So it’s not bad, but also not very good. Will give good old Ed few more chances for sure.



NYC policeman on vacations Phillip Colby. For several chapters his role as a narrator is taken over by his friend cop Anthony Mitchell so I guess it has two heroes.

Sullivan’s Corner near Davistown, 4 hours of driving from NYC. Place that “did not laugh very much.” Present time, which would be late 50s

Body count
victim, her lover and her pimp’s helper. Added bonus is couple of wounded cops.

His girlfriend/fiancĂ©e Ann and hooker Lois are pivotal for the story but we never really get to meet them. There’s also hooker Blanche and her madam Stephanie.

My edition was published in 1982 by Penguin and cover is totally 80-ish. Upper third is occupied with author’s name along with the title (name having larger font than title) and smaller tagline and below is photograph of beautiful, half naked woman. But it is accurate because there is a moment in the book when he walks into his room and redheaded prostitute dressed in pink underwear is lying on his bed.

I felt like a private eye. Only private eyes get hit on the head. 

Cool lines:
“The minute that hits the floor, I dial the local cops,” I said.
The dress hit the floor, and she stepped out of it, grinning. “Ain’t no phone,” she told me.

No comments:

Post a Comment