This review was originally posted on amazon on January 22, 2012:
I really enjoyed this book, so I am pleased that there are 54 more of them available. Recently, 35 of these 87th Precinct mysteries were the Kindle Daily Deal. Which means that I bought 35 books for $35.00. Which is a bargain by any reasonable measure.
The Mugger is the second of the 87th Precinct books, and was published in 1953.. At the time that this book was written, fingerprinting existed, but modern forensics had not yet been fully developed. There was no DNA evidence. No fiber comparisons. Crime scene photography was in its infancy. Nonetheless, scientific evidence did exist, and Ed McBain relied upon it in telling the story of this investigation. Because although police officers, especially detectives, relied primarily upon witness interviews and street sense to solve crimes, often it was street sense that solved crimes, and science that confirmed the truth of the solution.
The Mugger is two intertwined crime stories. The first is the investigation into the title character -- the mugger -- a man who assaults women while he robs them, completing his crime by bowing and saying "Clifford thanks you, madam.". The second is the murder of a very troubled young woman which is attributed to the mugger, although it is way outside of his usual signature.
In many ways, The Mugger reminded me of Homicide, Life on the Street, one of the best television shows ever produced for American television. The Mugger is more than the sum of its parts, it is more than a crime story. It is an introduction into Ed McBain's world, the world of Isola, the mythical city of the 87th Precinct, of patrolman Bert Kling, 24 years old and fresh out of the Korean conflict, of men who work hard and solve crimes. As Baltimore became a character in Homicide, so Isola becomes a character in The Mugger. McBain is an old school author, who writes clear, occasionally surprisingly lyrical, prose, and tells a good story.