When Ed McBain created his series about the denizens of the 87th Precinct in the fictional city of Isola, he pioneered the creation of a variant within the mystery genre ultimately termed the police procedural. Forty-two volumes later, McBain remains the reigning master of this particular form. If McBain has conceived some of the most memorable characters in detective fiction, he normally manages to keep his criminals within the parameters outlined by the pages of any urban newspaper. But, for every rule there is an exception, and the Deaf Man is McBain’s one concession to the tradition of the master criminal that stretches back to the infamous Dr. Moriarty.
Sherlock Holmes was at least the good doctor’s equal in intellect, and their battles were fought on a level playing field. The Deaf Man, on the other hand, never fails to confuse the men of the 87th. His failures are never in consequence of their actions, but rather misfortune, misplaced circumstance, and accident. MISCHIEF is no exception to the rule, and readers, despite their literary omnipotence, will find themselves, as with Carella and the others, one step behind and struggling to keep up.
Moreover, as is his wont, McBain continues to provide secondary stories which will, in all probability, become central themes in future works. Thus, the thoroughly reprehensible Andy Parker continues his despicable career, Eileen Burke faces yet another crisis, and Bert Kling may finally find romance. And, as always, Steve Carella, his wife Theodora, and the whimsical Meyer Meyer make their own contributions to the continuing saga. Those who await the annual additions to the canon will not be disappointed, and new readers will experience a literary tour de force.