“Doll” by Ed McBain is tougher than you might expect from the year 1965
Ed McBain made a name for himself not only because he wrote a lot of crime novels, but also because he helped shape the genre. I’ve found his stories to be rather chaotic and I mean that as a compliment. McBain throws stuff into the story unexpectedly at times and “Doll” is a very good example of what happens when he does that. I have to be careful not to spoil it for you here, but it’s safe to say that there’s a model called Tinka Sachs — her agency brochure is printed right into my edition of the book! — who is murdered by someone very angry. Her five year old daughter witnesses the whole thing, sitting in the next room with a doll on her lap. The novel kicks off high speed. 87th Precinct police detective Steve Carella dives into the background. We get to see the model’s agency from the inside, we run up and down apartment buildings and, on the side, we’re pointed towards colleagues of Carrela and what they’re up to. Like I said, this all works in the nice chaotic ambiance that one can expect from a police precinct in some large city that never sleeps. And then Ed McBain throws in some stuff that I didn’t see coming. It’s more violent and aggressive than I’d have expected from a novel that was first published in 1965. It knocked me off my feet a bit. Carella gets involved in some unexpected stuff and I feared for him. Too bad I can’t go into it, but I speeded up my reading towards the end, there were a lot of questions that needed answering and those answers don’t come until the very end of “Doll”. I’m not saying novels from another time can never be tough, but this one shoves a particular unpleasant experience upon detective Steve Carella. See what you think.