Reading the 87th Precinct novels are like visiting with old friends. If you’ve never read this series, I highly recommend reading them in order. I am reading them out-of-order and am regretting it. I will grab “Cop Hater” the first in the series and print only and go from there. The biggest highlights for me in reading this series: the humor, the witticisms, the dialogue, the characters, the recurring villains (The Deaf Man) and the interrelationships and most importantly for me, the relationship between Steve Carella and his wife, Teddy who is deaf/mute.
Ed McBain’s (he also wrote as Evan Hunter) mysteries are quick reads for me and “Money, Money, Money” (2001) no exception. The start of the novel grabbed me immediately and most of the books in this series usually do. The plots in his books aren’t usually this complicated at least in the last three that I read. In here, we have terrorists, drug dealers, money laundering and petty thieves. The following article has a few minor spoilers in it so if you don’t want any details then this is a good place to stop reading. Also, at the end of this article is the complete reading list for the 87th Precinct series.
“In this business, you do not expect fake money.
Fake names, yes, but not fake money.
Fake money can get you killed.”- from Money, Money, Money
Gulf War veteran and female pilot, Cassandra Jean Ridley aka “Cass” decides to make some easy cash for herself by flying dope to Mexico. She makes four separate trips for a sweet $200,000 with a tip. She knows it’s dope but prefers to stay in the dark about those types of details. Soon after she makes it back home, a petty thief robs her Mexican tip money (around $8,000). She tracks him down via a pair of prescription eyeglasses he dropped on her floor. I won’t even touch on the privacy violations the optometrist broke to give Cass his address. Moving on, when she retrieves the money back, she realizes somebody switched her money.
Cass doesn’t know that petty thief Wilbur Struthers aka “Will” was paid a visit by the Secret Service from the Department of Treasury when he tries spending her dope money. They confiscate the money and return it with no questions asked. Meanwhile, the Mexicans who were paid for their top grade cocaine from Cass find out later that they were paid with “fake money” and begin to search for the people involved in the drug transaction. Alongside that complication, there’s a more serious player in the drug trade that is buying fake money from Iran and then purchasing dope with it. The money used to purchase the “funny money” is thus funneled and used for terrorists activities. No surprise that the bodies start to pile up when the fake money is discovered.
Detective Steve Carella and the other guys in the Eighty-Seventh Precinct are alerted to a zoo where a group of pride lions are leisurely eating away at a human body. From the Eighty-Eight, Detective Ollie Wendell Weeks works in a parallel investigation since 1/5th of the person’s body (the leg) was in his district. While the scene with the lions is grisly in the details, it is somewhat comical in how they — the zoo keeper and the police–decide to distract the lions away from the body. It’s either anesthetize them or let the SWAT team shoot them. Guess which way they went with that?
The story branches off further when a book salesman from a publisher is found dead in a garbage can and a drug dealer gets robbed after stealing the money from somebody else. It’s really not as complicated or as confusing as it sounds. There’s also some Arabs planning a terrorist attack targeting a Israeli violinist. I’m sure the author was showing us how the money used in the drug trade is utilized for funding weapons and terrorists cells. The book is also informative on the counterfeiting trade. Some of the terms are familiar but this book is about a decade old.
I really enjoyed this entry in the series, however, I did skim past the terrorists parts which weren’t very many. McBain’s recurring characters are fully realized, fleshed out and memorable. I love that they all have their own personal quirks, voice and issues. Starting with Steve Carella, he’s been having a rough time of it since his father died. His father was gunned down. His mother is dating again and according to Steve, it’s too soon. His sister is marrying the man who lost the case against the perpetrator who killed his father. As usual, Teddy, his wife, makes him face his feelings and they have a really nice, tender, intimate moment in here. I would love to quote it but it just isn’t the same.
Ah, “Fat” Ollie Wendell Weeks. He’s a character who thinks highly of himself and he obsesses over his weight constantly because he’s a bit chubby. While investigating the book salesman’s death, Ollie manages to talk himself into a book deal. One thing you should know about Fat Ollie and that he is a bigot and a lot of people don’t really care for him especially Steve Carella and the rest of the Eighty-Seventh precinct officers. They’ve learned to put up with him I guess and Ollie’s saved Carella’s life twice in here much to Carella’s dismay.
The dialogue. While these are police procedurals, I laugh a lot while reading these books.
Here’s Ollie trying to learn piano and frustrating his teacher because he can’t get past the first three notes even though it’s the same note:
“Are you sure you want to take piano lessons?”
“I am very sure. Yes, Miss Hobson. My ambition is to play five songs on the piano.”
“Because…and this is a possibility you may wish to consider, Mr. Weeks…perhaps you have no talent.”
“Oh, I have talent, all right.”
“I have talent to spare. I think I’m just in some kind of slump, is all. Not bein able to get past those first three notes.”
“But those first three notes are one and the same note! Bom, bom, bom,” she said, demonstrating, striking the note three times in succession. “Night. And. Day!” she said, striking the same note again and again and again. “It is impossible for you to be having trouble with the identical note struck three times. It is physically impossible, Mr. Weeks. Bom, bom, bom,” she said, hitting the note again. “It’s so simple a rodent could tap it with his nose.”
Movie talk by the guys during a rare moment of downtime in which they pick actors who best portrayed the U.S. President. Harrison Ford’s name is bandied around along with more than a few other actors. This went on for quite a while (and was hilarious) but it all culminates to this one important point:
“But you know who was the best actor?” Meyer asked. “Who ever played the President?”
“Who?” Kling said.
“Oh, yes,” Kling said.
“Yes,” Hawes said.
I love these guys and I love this series. You get a sense of family while reading these books along side a well written mystery. That’s why I highly recommend reading this series in order. “Money, Money, Money” is another great read in the 87th Precinct series. My grade, B+ for a great beginning, quick and fast paced narrative, for Steve Carella (love him) and Ollie and the rest for making me laugh. Great read. There’s a digital format for this book but the price of it is prohibitive (and my copy was pre-agency priced) but I’m sure there are plenty of used copies around and of course, there’s the library. Others I’ve enjoyed in the series thus far: “Fiddlers” (2005), “Hark!” (2004) and “The Pusher”(1956). Onward to the next 87th Precinct Novel.
READING LIST FOR THE 87TH PRECINCT NOVEL(S)
# 1 : Cop Hater (1956) by Ed McBain
# 2 : Mugger, the (1956) by Ed McBain
# 3 : Pusher, the (1956) by Ed McBain
# 4 : Con Man, the (1957) by Ed McBain
# 5 : Killer’s Choice (1957) by Ed McBain
# 6 : Killer’s Payoff (1958) by Ed McBain
# 7 : Killer’s Wedge (1958) by Ed McBain
# 8 : Lady Killer (1958) by Ed McBain
# 9 : ‘Til Death (1959) by Ed McBain
# 10 : King’s Ransom (1959) by Ed McBain
# 11 : Give the Boys a Great Big Hand (1960) by Ed McBain
# 12 : Heckler, the (1960) by Ed McBain
# 13 : See Them Die (1960) by Ed McBain
# 14 : Lady, Lady, I Did It! (1961) by Ed McBain
# 15 : Empty Hours, the (1962) by Ed McBain
# 16 : Like Love (1962) by Ed McBain
# 17 : Ten Plus One (1963) by Ed McBain
# 18 : Ax (1964) by Ed McBain
# 19 : He Who Hesitates (1965) by Ed McBain
# 20 : Doll (1965) by Ed McBain
# 21 : Eighty Million Eyes (1966) by Ed McBain
# 22 : Fuzz (1968) by Ed McBain
# 23 : Shotgun (1969) by Ed McBain
# 24 : Jigsaw (1970) by Ed McBain
# 25 : Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here! (1971) by Ed McBain
# 26 : Sadie, When She Died (1972) by Ed McBain
# 27 : Let’s Hear it for the Deaf Man (1973) by Ed McBain
# 28 : Hail to the Chief (1973) by Ed McBain
# 29 : Bread (1974) by Ed McBain
# 30 : Blood Relatives (1975) by Ed McBain
# 31 : So Long as You Both Shall Live (1976) by Ed McBain
# 32 : Long Time No See (1977) by Ed McBain
# 33 : Calypso (1979) by Ed McBain
# 34 : Ghosts (1980) by Ed McBain
# 35 : Heat (1981) by Ed McBain
# 36 : Ice (1983) by Ed McBain
# 37 : Lightning (1984) by Ed McBain
# 38 : Eight Black Horses (1985) by Ed McBain
# 39 : Poison (1987) by Ed McBain
# 40 : Tricks (1987) by Ed McBain
# 41 : Lullaby (1989) by Ed McBain
# 42 : Vespers (1989) by Ed McBain
# 43 : Widows (1991) by Ed McBain
# 44 : Kiss (1992) by Ed McBain
# 45 : Mischief (1993) by Ed McBain
# 46 : And All Through the House (1994) by Ed McBain
# 47 : Romance (1995) by Ed McBain
# 48 : Nocturne (1997) by Ed McBain
# 49 : Big Bad City, the (1998) by Ed McBain
# 50 : Last Dance, the (1999) by Ed McBain
# 51 : Money, Money, Money (2001) by Ed McBain
# 52 : Fat Ollie’s Book (2003) by Ed McBain
# 53 : Frumious Bandersnatch, the (2004) by Ed McBain
# 54 : Hark! (2004) by Ed McBain
# 55 : Fiddlers (2005) by Ed McBain
This list was swiped from The Internet Book List.