I wanted to read something I hadn't read before for Ed McBain Day, and since I never got around to reading the Matthew Hope series, I figured the first one would be a good place to start. The results were...well, mixed.
Matthew Hope is a lawyer in Florida--not a criminal lawyer, as he's quick to point out in several occasions--but he finds himself mixed up in a murder case anyway when a doctor friend of his walks into his house one night to find his wife and young daughters savagely stabbed to death. This is the doctor's second family--he has an ex-wife and two grown children, plus some other entanglements, as Matt quickly discovers. The grown son from the first marriage confesses to the killings, but something about his story doesn't seem right to Matt, who continues digging.
McBain (who we all know was really Evan Hunter, right?) does a fine job with the Florida setting. Not as good as John D. McDonald, but then who was? The writing is smooth and the pages go by quickly, as I'd expect from McBain. The dialogue is good and there are several of those fast-paced question-and-answer scenes that he employed to such good effect in the 87th Precinct series.
There are a couple of problems in GOLDILOCKS, and they're sort of connected. The mystery is fairly weak, and Matthew Hope isn't a very good detective. In fact, he's not really a very likable protagonist, and most of the other characters are unpleasant, too. There are plenty of people in this novel to feel sorry for but not many to root for. There's also a moment that seems so wrong and unnecessary that I felt the uncommon urge to throw the book against the wall. But I was reading it on my Kindle, so I restrained the impulse.
All that said, there was enough I did like about GOLDILOCKS that I'm tempted to try at least one more book in the series. I don't expect that to happen any time soon, though.
Helen Wismer - pulp editor
6 hours ago