(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

What starts out as a simple Christmas eve conversation with a pretty woman in a bar turns into a frameup that makes Vietnam veteran Michael Barnes out to ne a multiple murderer. After having his wallet and car stolen, Barnes fumbles his way into the afterdark New York underworld. In a series of improbable but amusing events, he meets up with a beautiful limousine driver, Connie Kee, who comes to his assistance time and again as his escort through the seedy side of town in search of the real killer. In the course of their twenty-four-hour hunt for the killer, Barnes and Kee fall in love.

Barnes needs to evade the law, but he is also being trailed by persons unknown who seem to want him to take the blame for the murders. What transpires is a taut mystery played out in Ed McBain’s famous Eighty-Seventh Precinct, the setting for more than forty novels in the last thirty-five years. McBain is particularly adept at bringing to life the simultaneously weird, comical, and threatening sides of life in the Big Apple. He writes with an insider’s knowledge and conveys the sense of dread and apprehension felt by anyone who has come to the city as an outsider.

Part of what makes McBain’s storytelling so entertaining is his tongue-in-cheek style. The mystery never takes a backseat to his humor, nor does the tension slacken, but McBain’s references to old movies, current events, and the Beautiful People, as well as his sharp eye for life’s ironies and absurdities, add enjoyment to what is already an engrossing murder mystery.