Author Evan Hunter (The Blackboard Jungle) has been slumming as celebrated crime novelist Ed McBain for more than 40 years. Now these two distinct voices have collaborated on a highly entertaining literary exercise. Hunter handles the first leg about successful but secretly perverse L.A. architect Benjamin Thorpe. In New York City on business, Thorpe dedicates the afterwork hours to an increasingly desperate search for female companionship. Ultimately he finds himself in an East Side whorehouse, where he gets beaten up and somebody gets murdered.
We learn this last detail from Ed McBain, who assumes the reins halfway through the book. The shift is deftly done. We are never told that McBain has stepped in. We are simply, suddenly and indisputably on his turf. It is the day after Thorpe's long and kinky night. Three detectives are at the XS Salon to investigate a prostitute's killing, sifting clues that will eventually point toward Thorpe. If Hunter provides a compelling psychological portraiture of a man falling down the rabbit hole of sex addiction, McBain easily matches his achievement with an inspired police procedural, topped off with a completely unexpected and satisfying twist at the end. (Simon & Schuster, $25)