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The Frumious Bandersnatch: A Novel of the 87th Precinct    by Ed McBain order for
Frumious Bandersnatch
by Ed McBain
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ed McBain presents the most horrendous events in an off-hand, casual fashion that mimics the distancing his detectives must themselves take from the crimes they investigate. The title of this 87th Precinct episode comes from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass poem Jabberwocky, the one that begins ''Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe' - and verses are delightfully quoted (and misquoted) throughout the mystery by all its players. 'Frumious Bandersnatch' also happens to be the title of a new album and video by hot singing sensation Tamar Valparaiso.

It's primarily Steve Carella's case, after Tamar is kidnapped during a rape enactment at her launch party by two men and a woman. Appropriately enough ('a launch for the launch'), the snatch occurs on a rented luxury yacht. Though Steve catches and begins the investigation, an FBI task force self-styled 'The Squad' soon horns in, anxious for glory as the media go wild - I especially enjoyed the author's snarky perspective on case irrelevancies taken up by the talk shows. And McBain has lots of fun with the music industry, in particular a cynical explanation of video production, voiced by one of Bison's executives 'trying to sell his savvy' to a young black girl at the launch party.

Though I figured out the probable twist early on, it's still always a joy to watch this master unfold his plot. And, having read every other 87th Precinct novel, I like re-entering the lives of detectives like Cotton Hawes and, susprisingly, Ollie Weeks. He's the one who was always Carella's police officer as pig foil earlier in the series - fat, bigoted, unlikeable, but still a competent cop. I've loved watching McBain re-invent Weeks recently. Ollie takes piano lessons, is writing a book, and now is even dating Patricia Gomez, a female police officer. Is Ollie in love and will he ever get that book published (after he rewrites it, since a petty crook stole the manuscript)?

Though Ed McBain writes a fine police procedural with a satirical pen and plenty of 'jaws that bite' and 'claws that catch', it's the unique human faces of his detectives that I enjoy most in this series. The Frumious Bandersnatch was high entertainment on all levels, and I hope to read many more 87th Precinct cases.

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