Review: The Con Man, by Ed McBain

Having failed to kill off Detective Steve Carella in the previous book, the 4th book in the long-running 87th Precinct series has him playing a star role. As in many of McBain’s novels, there are a number of story lines which in some cases intersect with one another, though others are loose ends. Though this story mainly focusses on con men, one of them is also a murderer and McBain’s descriptions of how that murderer wins the confidence (and indeed love) of lonely women makes for painful reading. He contrasts this with the true love felt by Carella for his wife Teddy — who in a surprising turn of events plays a central role in the story. Like in his earlier books, McBain the author is both a product of his time, but also ahead of his time. The cop who busts two particularly vicious (and skilled) con men is Black. Teddy Carella is hearing-impaired. A Chinese man plays a central role in helping the police. The cast of characters for a book written in 1957 is truly diverse — and this pattern will continue throughout the series over the next several decades.