Friday, October 02, 2015

Forgotten Books: Goldilocks - Ed McBain

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.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

If and when you do, do NOT read MARY, MARY, not only the worst Hope book but (I hope) the worst book Hunter ever wrote.

One big difference with the Hope series I noticed when I read the first was that unlike the 87th Precinct, these are first person...until later in the series when he went to third person.

Jeff M.

George said...

I like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST best of the Matthew Hope novels. The series tailed off at the end.

Mathew Paust said...

I read The Last Best Hope for Patti's McBain Day. In this, the last of the series, Hope makes much of his having been in a coma from a shooting I assumed would be described in an earlier episode. I learned in a quick check on Amazon where to find the shooting: There Was a Little Girl. I started it last night. Enjoying it thus far. Hope's in the ER in critical condition while Warren and Toots trace back his steps leading up to the seemingly out-of-the-blue shooting. A fascinating look inside the community of a middling circus.

Now I'm intrigued enough to want to read Mary Mary just to see how bad it really is, albeit thanks for the warning.

BTW, I did enjoy The Last Best Hope.

michael said...

Hard to believe McBain wrote ANYTHING bad...

Jim Huntamer said...

I believe Goldilocks was originally written as a stand-alone novel and only afterward was continued as a series. That may be why the lead character was written in a less than sympathetic way. He becomes much more engaging in the following books.