Picks and Pans Review: Three Blind Mice

updated 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Ed McBain

Calusa, Fla., is a city in transition, a quiet community coming to terms with poor newcomers to the Sunshine State. At the height of the Christmas shopping season, Jessica Leeds, the wife of a prominent landowner, is raped. When the evidence points to three Vietnamese immigrants, her husband, Stephen, vows revenge and grows apoplectic when the trio is found not guilty. Later, when the Vietnamese are found murdered, the cops look to Leeds. He looks anxiously to his lawyer, Matthew Hope.

From that moment, this mystery accelerates like a scared cat and doesn't stop until the last chapter. McBain plots masterfully; his timing and rhythm are in top form. The characters are real people facing real life's ominous twists. McBain, who also writes the 87th Precinct police procedural novels, here offers his best Hope story. The series, now nine strong, takes its other titles from fairy tales (Goldilocks, Beauty and the Beast). While not as popular as the 87ths, the Hopes are in some ways better—not a cop who would naturally be solving crimes, he somehow falls into cracking cases.

Beyond all that is the mastery of a McBain mystery—the crime is not easily solvable, the suspects are numerous, and clues are amply distributed. If there is a better American mystery writer than McBain out there, he's yet to put his name on a book. (Arcade, $18.95)

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