Thursday, October 01, 2015
Forgotten Books: BLOOD RELATIVES by Ed Mccain
Most mystery readers have their favorite 87th Precinct novels. Mine would include HE WHO HESITATES because McBain has the sly ability to give us an 87th in which the 87th appears only a few times. The other would be GHOSTS because McBain manages to wrap one hell of a ghost story inside a police procedural.
For me the most enriching 87th is BLOOD RELATIVES. This is not to say that it's the finest in storyline or surprises or shock or bravura writing. But for me it is one of the most intriguing takes on romantic love I've ever read.
The opening chapter is a stunner. Muriel Stark, who is seventeen, is savagely slashed to death as her cousin Patricia watches helplessly. The slaughter of a white girl from somewhat privileged family insures both a police and a press frenzy. But Patricia has difficulty picking out a culprit in the line up--indeed she picks out a cop. And the suspects the 87th boys and girls pursue all seem to have some of those damned alibis. (Note: McBain gives us a particularly gaudy cast of low lifes here. But as he frequently does he brings them to full and sometimes sad reality.)
All this is to say that BLOOD RELATIVES is very good and in the tradition of the shorter 87ths. But what makes it remarkable is how, using the dead Muriel's diary as a means of understanding the complicated relationship she had with not only Patricia but also Patricia's brother, McBain is able to write an eloquent commentary on romantic love and sex.
I've reread the diary entires several times because they so perfectly capture the rite of passage many of us go through at some point in our lives. The entries are by turns tender, naive, painful, foolish, wise, mysterious and never less than riveting.
I knew Evan Hunter somewhat (among other things we were both diagnosed with cancer with eight days of each other) and I asked him if he thought most readers would appreciate the remarkable work he'd done with Muriel's voice and experiences. He said he hoped so but probably most readers read for plot and nothing more. I hope he was wrong.