Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Ed McBain's There Was a Little Girl is mostly backstory.

Someone guns down Matthew Hope. He struggles to survive, lying in a semi-coma. He thinks back to what was happening before the shooting, crazily dreaming.

Working from the other side, his partner and his investigator friends try to find the shooter. His girlfriend stays at his bedside doing whatever she can do. Hope's ex-wife comes to his bedside too.

The whole thing seems to involve a small circus and maybe some other things.

There is a second crime, a murder.

Finally, Hope's friends solve the crime by listening to an audio interview Hope secretly recorded. The tape is in his briefcase. Hope's friends find the briefcase in the trunk of his car, a place they should have looked long before.

Along the way, we see the results of Ed McBain's research.

McBain told me more than I wanted to know about circuses, the medical processes happening to Matthew Hope, even the too-detailed backstory of one of the woman investigators.

So, we have one of the best straight storytellers I have ever read trying something new. And for me it doesn't work.

Not that I don't admire McBain for breaking the mold. That is a hallmark of his writing. It is just that this time it doesn't work. Still, we have Ed McBain's clear, concrete writing.

I'm someone who writes fiction as a hobby. I know how hard it is for authors to be fresh. One of the things I've liked about Ed McBain over the years is that just when I think I have him pegged, he surprises me. 

There Was a Little Girl is not Ed McBain's best book, but I'll keep reading.


George said...

Ed McBain was so prolific that once in a while he wrote a clunker. But, overall, McBain maintained pretty good quality control. I think he produced his best work in the Seventies and Eighties. After that, McBain's books got longer...a lot longer.

Joe Barone said...

I agree with everything you said. I personally enjoyed the shorter McBain books more. I tend to like shorter books.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I think I've this book in my small collection of unread Ed McBains. If I do I'll read it first. I just likeed the way McBain wrote.

Joe Barone said...

I like the way Ed McBain writes too. But I didn't like this book as much as I liked some others.

Kelly Robinson said...

You've made me curious about this one. I tend to like a lot of detail, though I can see how that wouldn't jibe with McBain.

Joe Barone said...

This book made me more aware of how much McBain must have researched. For me, usually it doesn't draw attention to itself. For some reason, this time I thought it did.