At night, I finished So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain (covering pages 88-199). The best assessment of the book is “Good enough.” It’s good escapism, but when McBain wrote this one he was just starting as an author had yet to hit his stride.
The story focuses on junky Ray Stone’s attempts to uncover the truth behind the murder of a jazz singer and the theft of 16 ounces of pure heroin. Ray drags his way through New York City’s jazz underworld and meets some interesting characters. However, some of the dialogue is stilted and not all of the characters’ actions make sense (such as when some thugs beat Ray, but leave him alive for no apparent reason). Perhaps my biggest complaint is that McBain fails to build suspense – the book doesn’t stir the reader’s emotions.
One thing that was a pleasant surprise was that McBain included a layer of complexity that was not apparent. So Nude, So Dead is a “puzzle” mystery where you have to pay attention to every detail in order to solve the mystery. Most of the clues are there, but they are often “hiding in plain sight,” and I’d guess that very few readers will pay enough attention to solve it – I certainly did not.
So Nude, So Dead is a trade (oversized) paperback reprint from Hard Case Crime. It’s overpriced @ $9.95. The book is a quick read. I give it 6.5 out of 10.
Readers get a bonus at book’s end – a novella (pages 203-223) titled “Die Hard” featuring McBain’s series detective Matt Cordell. “Die Hard” concerns the father of a junkie hiring Cordell to investigate the people who hooked his son on heroin. “Die Hard” was more of the same – solid, readable action fiction, but not outstanding.