Ed McBain writes with intensity and ambition. He goes so big that at times it could easily come off as pretentious or even “purple,” but the material is so blue collar that it balances things out and somehow works.
The Pusher is the third book in the seemingly never-ending 87th precinct series. Both in plot and writing, McBain falls a little flat here, especially compared to the first book in the series, Cop Hater, as well as the first book in the Matthew Hope series, Goldilocks. In fairness, I can imagine that perhaps for the time this wasn’t a bad plot. This book hit the shelves in 1956 – way before police procedural dramas occupied multiple hours per night on TV and ran the murder of the week thing into the ground. In any case, it was a little thin by today’s standards.
More disappointing, however, at least for me, was the writing itself. Cop Hater gave off an intense energy that kept me turning the pages. Aside from the faintest flourishes here and there, The Pusher didn’t have the same sparkle.