Wednesday, 23 October 2019
ED McBAIN - GOLDILOCKS (1977)
- stealing into someone else's house, testing the chairs and the porridge and especially the beds. Goldilocks, the other woman ...
- something more than a murder mystery. A story which begins with the slaughter of the innocent and goes on to reveal, piece by dazzling piece, a guilty world of other women and other men, double-lives and creaking marriages.
A world stained with moral murder of which few are innocent ... for Goldilocks visits everyone, and everybody knows Goldilocks ...
"Perhaps his best since he left the 87th Precinct ... Compulsive, and very cunningly contrived with a stunning and not unduly contrived solution." - The Observer
Ed McBain is probably better known for his long 87th Precinct series of books, as opposed to the dozen or so books, featuring a Florida attorney Matthew Hope. Goldilocks is the first in the Hope series.
Only 200-odd pages long, it was a disappointment. We open with Hope called to the scene of a triple murder. His friend and client, Jamie Purchase has discovered his second wife, Maureen and their two young children stabbed to death.
Over the course of this plodding book, we have....... a triple murder, dodgy alibis, lies, interrogation, infidelity, a confession from the victim's step-son and half sibling - somewhat shaky and possibly false, an ex-wife, mistresses, a pity party, secrets, ultimatums, broken promises, gallery parties, an attempted suicide, a dead cat, a confrontation or two, the appearance of another family member, another confession and our outcome.
I wasn't really expecting a high energy book, I think McBain's books portray a realism regarding police work and the everyday drudgery and routine. I was expecting something with a bit more fizz though. Hope isn't a crusading lawyer as such, he kind of sits in on interviews, asks a few questions, offers advice - mostly ignored and for the most part concerns himself with his own marital issues, somewhat brought into focus by the deceits and betrayals surrounding the players involved in the murder case.
I didn't especially find him a likeable or sympathetic character. He's cheating on his wife and he's semi-committed, hmm ... more a bit vague about leaving her and asking for a divorce, but there's always an excuse or a reason not to rock the boat. This is a situation which causes friction with the other woman. He loves his step-daughter. He's cold towards his wife, in return she's frosty and they are both argumentative. He seems a bit of a coward to be honest. You don't really see his lawyerly skills or expertise to any great degree.
The husband of the deceased doesn't really feature that much. None of the extended family including the ex-wife solicit much sympathy either. The dead wife and children do. Hope's wife doesn't. I didn't like the cat either, though that's purely out of principle. I'm a dog person! The only character I kind of took to was the investigating detective, Ehrenberg. His instincts tell him that something is a bit off with the first confession from Michael Purchase. He has concerns about an innocent man taking the rap for a crime he didn't commit and getting sent to death row.
The first 160 pages dragged and I don't really think it was my reading mood, I think it was the story. The last forty pages or so, picked up. I kind of planned to read a chapter a day to finish the thing by the close of the weekend, but 160-170 improved, 170-180 maintained so I just toughed it out.
Overall borderline 3 because of the last quarter or so of the book, but nah 2.5 from 5 is more on the money.
I've read McBain before, but none of his 87th Precinct books. I still intend to somewhat ambitiously read my way through the series (over 50 of them). I have more of the Matthew Hope series on the pile.
My McBain's to date are
Downtown (1989), Guns (1976), Driving Lessons (1999)
Read - October, 2019
Published - 1977
Page count - 208
Source- owned copy
Format - paperback