Hark! by Ed McBain ($24.95 Simon & Schuster, 293 pp. Hardcover)
In this latest 87th precinct novel, McBain brings back an old nemesis from the past: the elusive thief known as the Deaf Man. The Deaf Man may or may not be deaf, and he likes to send cryptic messages to Detective Carella hinting what havoc he will wreak next. Unfortunately, neither the messages or the plot here convey any serious sense of urgency.
McBain is one of those writers who is an industry unto himself, fails to summon up any suspense or interest for that matter, mostly because the Deaf Man is off stage most of the time, plotting. We're left with the really bad pseudo-Shakespearean notes and a hooker named Melissa, who is doing the Deaf Man's leg work (and plotting as well). It's Melissa's job to get the notes to Carella and company, and she hits upon the idea of paying bums and junkies to deliver them. Amazingly, each and every note arrives at just the right time. Not one junkie lost a note or got distracted looking for a fix. How convenient. McBain fans will expect more here, though Melissa pulls off a nice twist at the end.