Gladly the Cross-eyed Bear

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Gladly the cross-eyed bear appears to be a dear stuffed animal the public will not ever have the chance to buy before the holidays. The two parties who claim ownership over this creature are in court, in humid Florida, arguing over the legality of the trademark. Attorney Matthew Hope, who may be familiar to McBain’s readers gets sidetracked with flashbacks to a shooting having taken place in the not-too-distant past, where he not only was the victim but also remained in a coma for some time afterward. The reader may wonder what relevance these distracting memories add to the story.

The story does become rather complex, however, and readers with some knowledge of pleasure boats will enjoy the detailed descriptions of some lovely crafts which are anchored up on Calusa’s shores. These forays into boat life do remain important in the context of this story.

As the complexities arise, murder is committed, and Hope’s client stoutly maintains her innocence of this murder, although readers find out, in some detail, about some other activities in which she has somewhat willingly participated, having need to augment her income until, in a manner of speaking, her ship comes in. While Matthew, her trusting attorney, believes her, he continues to be distracted with repercussions from his coma recovery. There is also the unsolved question of where his two favorite detectives are.

The ending is a total surprise, and McBain pulls it off with skill. His writing is smooth, his research is complete, and the development of his characters is colorful and efficient. There will be some wonder and hurrahs at the final page-turnings.