LULLABY is the latest entry in Ed McBain’s three-decades-long series of detective novels focusing on the men and women of the 87th Precinct. McBain has developed his characters over the years, providing them with backgrounds and personal lives well known to the series’ longtime readers. Yet his latest novel stands alone as an absorbing mystery for those unacquainted with McBain’s earlier work, offering a tautly constructed tale of murder, violence, and greed played out against the urban backdrop of the series’ unnamed big-city setting.

The tragedy that sets LULLABY in motion is that most horrific of all crimes: the murder of a small child. The trail that detectives Meyer and Carella must follow to track down the killer of six-month-old Susan Hodding and her baby-sitter, Annie Flynn, will lead them to several dead ends before their exhaustive search at last reveals the motive--and with it the murderer’s identity. Detective Bert Kling, who finds himself embroiled in a gang war after saving the life of a small-time hood, is also coping on a more personal level with his growing estrangement from detective Eileen Burke, who in LULLABY seeks psychiatric counseling for the emotional scars left by events that occurred earlier in the series.

McBain’s novels fall into the category of the police procedural with their realistic depiction of the day-to-day routine of police detective work. LULLABY is an excellent example of the genre, making believable drama from the painstaking process of following up each possible lead or clue. The strength of McBain’s style lies in his ability to combine the details of crime investigation with personal touches from his characters’ lives that give the detectives a life beyond their role in the squad room. LULLABY should please longtime fans of the 87th Precinct and whet the newcomer’s appetite for earlier novels in the series.