Master criminals are very handy scapegoats, Carella reasoned, because they allow you to dismiss your own inadequacies.
Ed McBain’s Fuzz is surreal.
The cops in the 87th Precinct take on their archenemy the deaf man.
The deaf man sends blackmail letters to the precinct demanding money not to kill Isola city officials. At the same time, detectives in the precinct try to stop two teens who get their fun from setting homeless men on fire. And along the way, the police do a stakeout to break up an expected armed robbery.
But it all goes wrong. The two teens set Steve Carella on fire and then later beat him almost to death.
Another cop shoots himself in the leg.
A male and a female cop working undercover pretending to be lovers in a sleeping bag get themselves zippered in. They can’t get out soon enough to catch the crook.
Two cops lose the person they are tailing.
And the local city painters who have been in the 87th Precinct’s way all through the story end up having stolen the 87th precinct blind.
Before it is all over, the deaf man murders two city officials. The police bumble though everything they do. They finally foil the deaf man, not because of their brilliance, but because, by chance, all these crimes come together to create chaos.
Ironically, when they foil the deaf man, the media treats the bumbling 87th precinct cops as heroes.
As I remember, my favorite book in the 87th Precinct series is 1985’s Eight Black Horses. Fuzz is one of the earlier (1968) books that leads up to Eight Black Horses.
McBain claims to want to portray police work honestly. No glossing over police mistakes.
Ed McBain certainly doesn’t gloss over the 87th’s mistakes in Fuzz.