Like a long-dormant volcano, the Deaf Man, left for dead at the end of Mischief (1993), is back to make more trouble for the officers of the 87th Precinct.
Once he dispatches the accomplice who double-crossed him in a brisk opening chapter, the Deaf Man wastes no time in getting down to business. Holing up with prostitute Melissa Summers, who doubles as his gofer, he directs a barrage of cryptic notes at the 87th. The first one—“WHO’S IT, ETC.? A DARN SOFT GIRL/O, THERE’S A HOT HINT!”—is followed by others at the rate of three installments a day. Steve Carella, preoccupied with the upcoming double wedding of his mother and his sister (whose fiancé is Henry Lowell, the DA who let the killer of Carella’s father walk), is too distracted to crack the Deaf Man’s code. So is Bert Kling, who wonders why Deputy Chief Sharyn Cooke is stepping out on him, and Cotton Hawes, who’s seriously annoyed by the sniper who keeps shooting at him. Even most of the readers given many more hints about the Deaf Man’s plans won’t be able to figure out what he’s up to. Only the combined efforts of the world’s best-loved detective team (The Frumious Bandersnatch, 2004, etc.) will crack the case.
If you can buy the premise that a master criminal would spend a whole week taunting the cops about an upcoming score, you can’t do better than McBain.