Friday, May 08, 2015

FFB Review: "The Last Dance" by Ed McBain--Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Friday means Friday’s Forgotten Books. Patti’s move continues so Todd Mason is handling things link wise again today on his  Sweet Freedom blog. Last week Barry kicked off May with his review of THE BURNING WIRE by Jeffrey Deaver. This week he is reviewing THE LAST DANCE by Ed McBain. Unlike Barry I have only read a few of these novels and I have not read this one. Make sure you check out the list over at Todd’s blog after you read Barry’s review……

THE LAST DANCE (1999) by Ed McBain

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

The question facing 87th Precinct detectives Steve Carella and Meyer Meyer is: did sixty-eight-year-old Andrew Hale, who had a history of heart problems, have another, ultimately fatal heart attack? Or has he been murdered? If the latter, why? He had no apparent enemies and relatively little in the way of a bequest—his daughter is married to a successful attorney, so a $25,000 insurance policy is probably not worth killing for. This being a mystery novel, an autopsy soon proves the cops have a murder on their hands because the victim, prior to his demise, was doped with Rohypnol, a.k.a. the “date rape” drug. Moreover, the manner in which he was killed is somewhat bizarre.

How, if at all, do the subsequent murders of a young woman named Althea Cleary and the elderly Martha Coleridge tie in to the Hale killing?

Joining in the investigation is Detective Oliver Wendell Weeks from the neighboring 88th Precinct, a man good at his job but repulsive in nearly every other way imaginable. 

As they probe the various cases, the detectives—and readers—encounter a variety of individuals, some apparently respectable, others definitely not. These include—among others— housewives, confidential informants, an African-American socio-political activist, local and imported hit men, and a considerable number of theatrical types. Both detectives and readers encounter their share of the kind of tense physical action that real-life big-city cops face all too often.

Although I wouldn’t rate The Last Dance as one of my favorite 87th Precinct novels, I can nevertheless recommend it simply because I’ve never read a novel in this series I’d call a dud—and I’ve read nearly all of them. What always makes them appealing is the late Ed McBain’s skill at creating very believable three-dimensional characters via their actions, dialogue, and internal monologues. His narrative style includes entertaining explanations of technical procedures, whether investigative or forensic, and is often leavened with wry humor. He was and remains arguably the finest exponent of the police procedural sub-genre.

Warning: The Last Dance contains raw street language some readers might find offensive.

© 2015 Barry Ergang

Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. Some of it is available at Amazon and at Smashwords. His website is

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