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eighty million eyes

1 may 2017

The detectives of the 87th Precinct "catch" two separate cases in Eighty Million Eyes (1966). For once, the cases don't converge. Frank Carella and Meyer Meyer solve the murder of a TV comedian that occurs in front of the title organs, and Bert Kling finds himself trying to protect a woman he'd met, and mightily annoyed, in a previous novel (Ten Plus One).

The TV-comedian murder case is pretty soft-boiled. It involves a straying wife, a poisoning doctor, and some indirection that wouldn't fool Hercule Poirot for a minute. We are all the less prepared for some chilling violence in the subplot. Kling's case starts when a sinister character harasses Cindy Forrest at work and beats up a cop called to evict him. Kling rather amusedly takes on the assignment of squiring Forrest around so that he can set a trap for the stalker. The stalker eludes him and inflicts some nasty pain on Forrest. Kling spends the last few scenes allotted him in setting a better trap.

Kling is inappropriately upbeat for a cop who's just let a charge of his get traumatized. He rather gleefully apprehends and dispenses with the stalker, and then turns his attentions back to Forrest, now out of the line of duty. She's now OK with those attentions. "Women!" you can almost hear the implied reader saying, but the scene isn't so cheerily dismissed fifty years later. The stalker plays a part in the sexual economy of McBain's city, validating Kling's advances by keeping their target in chronic danger.

McBain, Ed. Eighty Million Eyes. 1966. In Ed McBain. New York: Octopus / Heinemann, 1981. 353-462.