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by Ed McBain
Orion, February 2005
304 pages
ISBN: 0752867466

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The title very nearly put me off this book -- I had visions of Alice venturing down to the cellar at 1am, or going to the deserted boathouse all alone at midnight. But then anything that smacks of femjep has me legging it from the premises at all speed.

Fortunately we're spared this. ALICE IN JEOPARDY is one of the last books by the late and great Ed McBain. It's a standalone, set in Florida and well away from his wonderful 87th Precinct series.

Alice Glendenning is almost at rock bottom. Her husband went out in his yacht for a night-time sail and never came back. She's selling real estate, but has yet to earn any commission. And the insurance people are dragging their feet about paying up on her husband's policy.

But worse is to come when her children Ashley and Jamie are kidnapped outside their school by a mysterious blonde. The police are as much help as a chocolate teapot, squabbling amongst themselves and fouling up all down the line on the enquiry. Alice soon realises that the only person she can count on is herself.

You get what you pay for with McBain -- the sharpest and sparest of narrative, water-tight plotting and a cast who are never allowed to get out of hand. But those characters are the sticking point -- I didn't care about wimpy Alice and her rather one-dimensional sprogs. The supporting cast have mixed luck -- Alice's friend Charlie and her sister Carol are very under-drawn, but there are memorable cameos from Carol's loser husband Rafe and his jailbird friends.

I guessed what happened quite some way before the end, mainly because McBain plays the reader fair with judiciously-strewn clues. Despite this, ALICE IN JEOPARDY is, as you would expect, well-plotted and a reasonable page-turner, once you get past that dratted present tense.

But I'm waiting for that final 87th Precinct book to happen along . . . That's how I want to remember McBain.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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