Cut Me In by Ed McBain

Cut Me In (book review)

By Ed McBain

Hard Case Crime, Titan Books, RRP £7.99

Rating: 4/5

Reviewed by Dave Lancaster

: Police procedural master Ed McBain's lost early novel Cut Me In is a blistering (re)discovery. Hot, lean and delivered at breakneck speed, this is a welcome addition to the Hard Case Crime collection.

Cut Me In is everything you hope for in a pulp crime novel - it starts with sex, ends with suspense and throws in some murders and more sex for good measure along the way.

It's written with dynamic charge by Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter), who created the fabled 87th Precinct series of detective novels (the longest running in literary history) but it was penned long before he became a dependable sensation in the crime fiction world. In fact, this firecracker of a novel has been lost for over half a century before being given the kiss of life by the Hard Case Crime imprint of Titan Books.

On the surface, it's a fairly typical hard boiled mystery: a universally hated guy gets murdered so his partner (who is no angel himself) vows to track down the killer, mainly because he's got plenty to gain himself from unravelling the mystery. There's a determined, skeptical cop and a handful of easy women propping up the pages, not to mention the obligatory pepperings of red herrings and coffee black stabs at grim comedy.

However, what's interesting about Cut Me In is that its main protagonist isn't a detective - he's a literary agency boss. Rewinding back to the 1950s when this written and McBain still had rejection letters fresh in his mind way before he became a household name, screenwriter for Alfred Hitchcock, inspiration for Akira Kurosawa and MWA Crime Grandmaster recipient, it makes the case that he was sore with his early attempts at penetrating the barb wire enclosed writing world. Here he could well be bitterly commenting that the very idea of getting fiction published (and exploited for screen rights) was testament to murder. Backstabbingly brutal at the very least.

There's passion here and McBain whips through his story as if he's excitedly writing it in the moment. Indeed, the entire narrative takes place over the course of just a few violence, seduction and alcohol fuelled summer days amid a dizzying New York heatwave. This is an unputdownable thriller that benefits greatly from that sense of immediacy. Sure, it lacks the kind of intricate narrative that Agatha Christie could dream up or the biting humour of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler peppered throughout their tales, but it's still a great read and one that is so pacy you can't help but be swept up in its inviting slipstream.

This edition, as well as featuring a gorgeous original cover illustration by Robert McGinnis, also contains a long lost 30-odd page novelette tacked on at the back entitled Now Die In It. Sublime from cover to cover.

You can check out a sample chapter from Cut Me In HERE and buy via Titan Books HERE.

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