Friday, 13 May 2011

[033] Even the Wicked - Ed McBain

Even the Wicked by Ed McBain

What the Back of the Book Has to Say:


The police called the death of newscaster Zach Blake's wife an accident. But champion swimmers don't die "accidentally."


Now Zach and his young daughter Penny have returned to Martha's Vineyard - summoned back to the site of the tragedy by a disturbing anonymous letter. But their search for truth in Paradise uncovers a sordid scheme much bigger and far nastier than the death of one woman - placing the bereaved widower and his helpless child at the mercy of desperate men determined to cover up their evil doings with innocent blood.

Why I Picked It Up:

It was really short and looked kind of like an old school sci fi novel. 

What I Think:

There is both so much and so little I have to say about this book. It was written in the early fifties and has that feel about it. You can tell that this is a book written when men were men, women were housewives or femme fatales and Native Americans were Indians. There's nothing quite like reading an older book with a modern, politically correct hyperaware mind. It's a strange mixture of disgust and nostalgia. And sometimes it's just so silly that you can barely take it seriously. Guess which category this book falls into?

The plot is fairly simple: Zach Blake and his daughter Penny go on vacation to Martha's Vineyard a year after their wife/mother was killed out in the harbor. Over the period of a day or two, roughly 118 pages, they solve the mystery of what exactly happened to Zach's wife.

Yes, that's right: this entire book is only 118 pages long. And therein lies it's greatness: it has no time to build a plot so all the mystery elements can only be a few paragraphs long. He goes from meeting the femme fatale to proposing marriage in seventy pages. Also, there are a good number of people killed in a very short period of time. To watch him discover a corpse to hanging out at a party to interviewing subjects to chasing kidnappers in under fifty pages is definitely an experience. 

Beyond that, there are quite of few just ridiculous quotes that pepper the book, reminding you that not only is the page number holding it back, but also it's ridiculous writing style. My personal favorite is after Zach discovers the first murder victim. He notices that there is a blond hair on the body. His thought process goes thusly: "How many blondes had he met on this island? How many blondes are capable of murder?" Like a person's hair color has something to do with their mental well being. I immediately committed this glorious quote to memory so that I could always remember it.

To tell you the truth, thinking back on this book a few months later, I can honestly say that I barely remember it. I remember the blonde quote, I remember vague plot points and I remember the random (but amazing!) ending "twist" that made the whole story possible. Despite that, I don't even remember the main female character's name. I suppose that says something about popular fifties fiction, though, doesn't it?s

I know this entry is short but, in my defense, so is the book. Is it a long read? No. Is it a very intriguing plot? Not really. Despite all that, is it an entertaining read? Absolutely. It will also take you perhaps an hour to read. You'll remember some good quotes for a long time after, though.

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