Long ago, Ed McBain created a unique series of police procedural mysteries. Instead of focusing on one particular police detective, he chose to focus on one particular police precinct. The first in the series, Cop Hater, was released in 1956. Now, fifty-eight years and nearly twice as many books later, McBain no longer needs to prove he has the stamina to prove he is one of the best -- and yet, this man shows no signs of slowing down.
Fat Ollie's Book does not entirely encompass detectives from the 87th. Archie Bunker—er, um, Detective Ollie Weeks - is actually part of the adjacent 88th Precinct who calls on detectives from the 87th to help him with a murder case.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Detective Weeks has just finished writing his first novel. He entitles it Report to the Commissioner. Fictitious female detective Olivia Wesly Watts pens the novel like a police report. On his way into work, Weeks gets called to a murder scene. A politician has been shot dead. While investigating, his car is broken into Weeks' attaché case, which contains the manuscript.
Weeks calls on Detectives Carella and Kling from the 87th Precinct to help solve the murder. While those cops work the murder scene, Weeks dedicates his time to trying to figure out who took his manuscript.
A side story follows a uniformed cop and her partner as they work to crack a drug trafficking crime. A deal is about to go down involving cocaine and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, the person who broke into Weeks' car thinks he has discovered an actual report when he reads the manuscript: a female detective has uncovered a fortune in stolen diamonds, and the criminals have her locked in a basement. The manuscript thief wants to rescue the detective and steal the diamonds and uses the manuscript as a road map to get him from one point to the next.
With skilled realism, McBain manages to link the separate story plots together and pack the pages full of humor and some great detecting. The characters, as always, are well-defined and creative, the storyline imaginative and fun. McBain knows how to write, but more than that he is a wonderful storyteller. Fast, witty and surprising, Fat Ollie's Book is another well-earned notch on McBain's belt.