Review: Killer’s Payoff, by Ed McBain

The sixth book of the 87th Precinct series continues the focus on the new detective, Cotton Hawes, who — at least from a 21st century point of view — is turning out to be rather unlikeable, as he “falls in love” every few pages and winds up in bed with a whole range of passing, forgettable female characters. In an earlier book, McBain had created a strong woman character (though she was being used as bait), but there’s little sign of that here. The book feels, in that sense, more of its time, with voluptuous women seducing or being seduced by tall, powerful men. Nevertheless, McBain continues to show off his liberal values, having already introduced Jewish, Black and disabled characters. This book features a memorable scene in a gay bar in which the only people the author detests are the suburban tourists who’ve come in to stare at the queers. Not McBain’s finest work, but still a key part of the emerging story.