Saturday, December 19, 2009

Money, Money, Money by Ed McBain

Some things Christmas doesn't touch.

Drug transactions, counterfeit money, several double crosses--all these things are immune to Christmas.  Christmas only heightens the depression of a cop who is struggling with PTSD.

This complex story begins with drug running and closes with terrorism.  And in a strange way, all of it connects.

A couple days ago, I commented that this story is the opposite of the Christmas classic, Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

While Dickens shows that doing good brings more satisfaction than always seeking after wealth and power, this story shows that despite Christmas or any other motivation, many seek for wealth, power, and control--Money, Money, Money. 

When I set out to read Christmas mystery stories this year, I remembered my favorite writer, Ed McBain.  He has written several 87th Precinct stories set at Christmas.  This is the one I fastened on for this Christmas season.

And it is "classic" McBain, a straight, but complex, story about familiar people, even a character I don't much like, Fat Ollie.  In fact, in this story, Fat Ollie saves Carella's life two or three different times.  But what really saves Carella's life is a change of heart, a late understanding that we don't have anything more valuable than love and family.

If he hadn't found that in this Christmas-New Year time, he might well have eaten his gun. 

So Christmas and the new beginning which the News Year brings do play a part in this story.  The horrible things which happen in Isola during the season (a lion eats one woman), cause Carella to understand what really matters.

I didn't think this was Ed McBain's best book.  I'll tell you more about which one I think is the best some other time.  But in its own odd way, this book was faithful to the message of the Christmas-New Year season. 

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