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In all fairness to readers, Evan Hunter/Ed McBain should probably have chosen a different byline for mysteries featuring Florida lawyer Matt Hope (Goldilocks, 1978)--because these books combine some of the better features of McBain's procedurals with some of the worst features of Hunter's socio-sexual melodramas. Narrator Matt, now divorced at 37, is himself a suspect when Vicky Miller (an ex-rock star trying a local comeback) is found beaten to death. . . hours after a night of sex with Matt. But other suspects abound (especially since Vicky's little daughter vanishes, later turning up dead): Vicky's ex-husband, possible beneficiary of a trust fund; her rich father, who opposed the comeback; a restaurateur angry about Vicky's lousy show at his place; members of her old rock band. And things move along splendidly (notwithstanding a strained psycho-solution) as long as the sleuthing is stage-center. Unfortunately, however, there's also Matt's sentimental angst over his teenage daughter (apparently not even Love, Dad, p. 161, has succeeded in exorcising Hunter's father/daughter obsession); and Matt's affair with lawyer Dale--delivered in prose of the ""pillaging"" school. (In one paragraph: ""our tongues boldly pillaging"". . . ""tumbling to an erotic beat, pillaging. . ."") If you can bypass the treacle and the pillaging, then, this is good, solid detection--but no substitute for the true grit of the 87th Precinct.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1981
Publisher: Viking