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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sherlock Holmes of the 87th Precinct

Meyer Meyer criticizes fellow detective Bert Kling for reading a book on the job instead of working.

“I am working,” Kling protests. “These are stories of the deductive method.”

“The what?”

“Of detection. Haven’t you ever heard of Sherlock Holmes?”

“Everybody’s heard of Sherlock Holmes,” another detective interjects.

So it goes in an early chapter of Ed McBain’s The Heckler, the 12th book in his 87th Precinct police procedural series. Written in 1960, it’s also the first novel to feature McBain’s “Moriarty,” a methodical criminal known only as “the deaf man.”

Later, the deaf man pulls a ploy straight out of the pages of “The Red-Headed League,” which is mentioned by name, when he places an ad for redheads to model women’s dresses. “No experience necessary.”

The Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street is far removed from McBain’s fictional big city Isola in the twentieth. And yet, the influence of the Great Detective is obvious even there.

Fifteen years later, McBain (legal name Evan Hunter) would write a tongue-in-cheek introduction to A Study in Scarlet in which he defended Scotland Yard and argued that Holmes should have been arrested for bribing Constable Rance.

But Holmes foiled Moriarty. It was a patrolman, not the 87th Precinct detectives who are the collective heroes of McBain’s series, that defeated the deaf man.

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