Mostly misfires, but the prodigious author of 90-plus novels (The Last Dance, 1999, etc.) has been on target so often...

BARKING AT BUTTERFLIES

AND OTHER STORIES

A varied but disappointing collection by one of our crime fiction icons. The 11 reprints aren’t exactly bad, but they lack the snap, the sense of mastery that makes McBain’s 87th Precinct novels, for instance, work so well. It might be that the author (a.k.a. Evan Hunter) needs room—that his characters have to hold the stage for a while in order to become quirky enough, or heroic enough, or poignant enough to drive a plot. Only in “The Movie Star,” the best piece by far, does any of that happen. A young woman who looks somewhat like Kim Novak begins to refashion herself as Kim Novak—first playfully, then obsessively. Calamity is inevitable, but McBain makes the trip to the graveyard mordantly entertaining. Elsewhere, plot devices masquerade as characters. The title story concerns an implausible husband absurdly jealous of his wife's dog. His attempt to murder the animal goes wrong in a way that will surprise few and annoy others. The theater types in “The Beheading” lost their freshness decades ago. In his introduction, McBain tells us that his children's camp story—the pat, slick “Uncle Jimbo's Marbles”—appeared first in Redbook, and that “Motel”—a tedious riff on the joylessness of illicit love—picked up its latest rejection slip as recently as 1999. Both times you can see why.

Mostly misfires, but the prodigious author of 90-plus novels (The Last Dance, 1999, etc.) has been on target so often throughout a marvelous career that his reputation is virtually bulletproof.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7862-2536-X

Page Count: 275

Publisher: Five Star/Gale Cengage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on...

MYSTIC RIVER

After five adventures for Boston shamus Patrick Kenzie and his off-again lover Angela Gennaro (Prayers for Rain, 1999, etc.), Lehane tries his hand at a crossover novel that’s as dark as any of Patrick’s cases.

Even the 1975 prologue is bleak. Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus are playing, or fighting, outside Sean’s parents’ house in the Point neighborhood of East Buckingham when a car pulls up, one of the two men inside flashes a badge, and Sean and Jimmy’s friend Dave Boyle gets bundled inside, allegedly to be driven home to his mother for a scolding but actually to get kidnapped. Though Dave escapes after a few days, he never really outlives his ordeal, and 25 years later it’s Jimmy’s turn to join him in hell when his daughter Katie is shot and beaten to death in the wilds of Pen Park, and State Trooper Sean, just returned from suspension, gets assigned to the case. Sean knows that both Dave and Jimmy have been in more than their share of trouble in the past. And he’s got an especially close eye on Jimmy, whose marriage brought him close to the aptly named Savage family and who’s done hard time for robbery. It would be just like Jimmy, Sean knows, to ignore his friend’s official efforts and go after the killer himself. But Sean would be a lot more worried if he knew what Dave’s wife Celeste knows: that hours after catching sight of Katie in the last bar she visited on the night of her death, Dave staggered home covered with somebody else’s blood. Burrowing deep into his three sorry heroes and the hundred ties that bind them unbearably close, Lehane weaves such a spellbinding tale that it’s easy to overlook the ramshackle mystery behind it all.

An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on his characters’ heads.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16316-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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