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Swift, silent, and deadly -- someone is knocking off the 87th Precinct's finest, one by one. The how of the killings is obvious: three .45 shots from the dark add up to one, two, three very dead detectives. The why and the who are the Precinct's headaches now.

When Detective Reardon is found dead, motive is a big question mark. But when his partner becomes victim number two, it looks like open-and-shut grudge killings. That is, until a third detective buys it.

With one meager clue, Detective Steve Carella begins his grim search for the killer, a search that takes him into the city's underworld to a notorious brothel, to the apartment of a beautiful and dangerous widow, and finally to a .45 automatic aimed straight at his head.

176 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1956

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About the author

Ed McBain

590 books582 followers
"Ed McBain" is one of the pen names of American author and screenwriter Salvatore Albert Lombino (1926-2005), who legally adopted the name Evan Hunter in 1952.

While successful and well known as Evan Hunter, he was even better known as Ed McBain, a name he used for most of his crime fiction, beginning in 1956.

He also used the pen names John Abbott, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, Dean Hudson, Evan Hunter, and Richard Marsten.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 528 reviews
Profile Image for Bobby Underwood.
Author 100 books260 followers
February 6, 2020
Gritty, lean, and at times surprisingly romantic, the first entry in the 87th Precinct series remains one of the best. Evan Hunter, author of The Blackboard Jungle and screenwriter for Hitchcock’s, The Birds, is better known today as Ed McBain because of the 87th Precinct series. He wrote Cop Hater in 1955 in hopes of filling a void being created at Pocket Books by the slightly diminishing output of the prolific Erle Stanley Gardner. The 87th Precinct novels not only filled that void, they broke new ground, creating the first and finest of all police procedurals.

It seems old-hat today, tagging along with Carella, Kling, Meyer Meyer, Hawes and the rest of the 87th Precinct cops as they try to solve multiple crimes so they can make it home to their sweethearts or go find one, but when Cop Hater was written, it stood alone as something unique. Elizabeth Linington, writing as Dell Shannon, took a different approach to the police procedural a couple of years later, and they became the King and Queen of police procedurals. Despite McBain's gritty approach and Dell Shannon's more domestic approach, both Ed McBain and Dell Shannon still stand out in the genre many decades later. Reading Cop Hater now, one needs to judge it from the perspective of how groundbreaking it was at the time, and how it influenced everything to come in the much lauded series. When you read it with that context in mind, Cop Hater really shines.

In Cop Hater we are introduced for the first time to Detective Steve Carella, a mainstay of the revolving rotation of cops working out of the 87th Precinct that we would come to know over the next few decades. Carella was in love with the deaf Teddy in this one, and she’ll end up playing a major role as the search for a cop killer turns very deadly and perhaps fatal for some members of the 87th Precinct.

Set in the fictional Isola, which mirrored New York City, Isola is its own character here, McBain giving it a pulse and a heartbeat. When one of their own is slain, the boys of the 87th doggedly pursue every avenue they can to discover who is out there killing cops. The tawdry and seedier aspects of Isola’s underbelly is shown while we follow Carella and the boys as they augment police procedures with hunches and persistence. But two more cops are slain before Carella figures out almost too late, that this particular cop hater is hiding a lot more than a .45.

McBain doesn’t cheat the reader during the fast and involving narrative. We see everything the cops do, including an intimate scene we read as wrong as one of the cops does. Filled with humor and grit, and more than a bit of tenderness, Cop Hater is one of McBain’s finest, despite some outdated police techniques. Like John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series and Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series, McBain always gets right into the story, and in no time you’re in Isola with Carella and the boys. You don’t have to start with Cop Hater to enjoy this series, but you don’t want to miss it either. A real winner.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,812 followers
April 28, 2015
My to-read pile is completely out of control these days. So why would I make a special effort to check out the first book of a series that has over 50 (50!) books in the series?

It’s all Lawrence Block’s fault. He raved so much in The Crime of Our Lives about Evan Hunter who wrote this 87th precinct series under the McBain pen name that I started feeling guilty about never having read any of them. In fact, as a mystery fan I was ashamed to realize that the only Hunter/McBain I could recall checking out was the Hard Case Crime reprint of The Gutter & the Grave.

Plus, I just so happened to have picked a copy of this up at a used book store a few years back, and it’s pretty short so I figured I should give it a shot. It’s got a simple enough premise. During a brutal heat wave in a big city a police detective is shot on his way to work one night, and his partner is gunned down shortly after that. With few clues, the other detectives of the 87th precinct including Steve Carella scramble to track down the killer.

It’s easy to see how this would appeal to fans of police procedurals even though it was written back in the 1950s. McBain manages to create some interesting cop characters and puts them through the routines that make readers feel like they’re getting an inside view of how the police work, and that’s a formula that still attracts people today according to CBS’s ratings. It’s a quick story that is deftly told, and I particularly liked the scenes where McBain breaks away from the police work to outline how the heat is making everyone in the city miserable.

However, while it’s kinda fun to read about an era of police work that depends on looking at file cards of recently released felons or getting fingerprint results back from the FBI via special delivery, it obviously feels dated, and the story doesn’t do anything particularly tricky. I had figured out who was responsible for the murders very early on, and even the supposedly jaded cops seem kind of naïve to a reader in 2015.

So it was worth checking out for the respected place McBain holds in crime fiction, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to read the rest of the 50-some books.
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,915 followers
June 2, 2016
Originally published in 1956, this is the first novel in Ed McBain's long-running 87th Precinct series. It introduces Steve Carella, who would be the most prominent of the detectives that McBain created to populate his mythical precinct; it also introduces the large mythical city where the books are set and which is based loosely on New York City.

As the book opens, a plain clothes police detective is shot and killed as he is walking to work. The investigation into the killing has barely begun when two other detectives are killed by bullets fired from the same gun. The obvious conclusion is that someone hates cops and has decided to start killing them off. While the city swelters though a stifling heat wave, Steve Carella and his fellow detectives sort through every scrap of evidence while dealing with other assorted criminals, juvenile delinquents and pain-in-the-ass newspaper reporters. But they're getting nowhere fast until Carella comes up with an alternate theory of his own about the killer's possible motive, and before long, Carella may find himself squarely in the killer's sights.

Now over fifty years old, this book is clearly dated and doubtless doesn't pack the same punch that it delivered in the middle 1950s. It's also not as entertaining as many of the books that would follow it. But readers who like classic crime fiction or who would like to go back to see how this venerable series started will certainly enjoy it.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,025 reviews58.9k followers
June 5, 2017
Cop Hater by Ed McBain is a 2012 Thomas & Mercer publication.

This book was originally published way back in 1956 and is the first in the 87th precinct series, one of the longest running crime series in history, with a whopping fifty-five installments.

I’m not one hundred percent positive, but as far as I can tell, the entire series of books is available in the Amazon Kindle store, the digital format published by Thomas & Mercer, I believe. I also noticed that some of the books are part of the Kindle Unlimited program, (though, not all), which is nice if you are a subscriber.

As a vintage paperback collector, I have a healthy collection of Ed McBain novels, but not all of them are from this series. I keep my eyes peeled for them here and there and hope to someday own the entire collection, without breaking the bank.

But now that the books have been reissued in digital format, I am entertaining the idea of reading through the entire series, in order, if possible.

This first installment introduces us to the 87th precinct, set in the fictional location of Isola, which is obviously based on the city of Manhattan.

The series is a straightforward police procedural, which no doubt, was a real trailblazing novel back in 1956. The plot and dialogue would have been cutting edge, filled with ‘street’ vernacular that the ordinary person might not have been familiar with.

Now, however, the story is a little dry, and may even put you in mind of the old “Dragnet” series. The dialogue is hilariously outdated, at times, and the plot was easy to figure out. But, it’s an easy read, with a scant 224 pages, and despite being outdated, there is a Noir feel to the story, though that is rarely mentioned, which gave it a touch of style. The series is dark, gritty, and its realism paved the way for many influential novelists, books, television shows, and movies.

If you haven’t read any of the books in this series, try thinking of ‘Hill Street Blues’ as an example of how the series is constructed. There is an ensemble cast, with recurring characters, which I think is a very good idea.

Although the novel is a bit past its prime, I still enjoyed reading it, and appreciated the author’s approach. I can see why the series was so popular and why it continued for as long as it did.

I think it’s going to be fun and entertaining to work my way through these classic crime novels!!

4 stars
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,919 reviews10.6k followers
January 18, 2013
When a cop is cut down with a .45, Detectives Carella and Bush spring into action. But can they stop the killer before he kills again?

I was looking for another crime series to begin reading when the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain caught my eye. I'd read one McBain book before, The Gutter and the Grave, and I enjoyed it enough to take a change on the long long long series of 87th Precinct books..

Cop Hater is a police procedural about someone killing cops, set in the fictional city of Isola. While it was written in the 1950's, women and minorities get better treatment in this book than in a lot of its contemporaries. Steve Carella, the lead character, is engaged to a beautiful deaf mute named Teddy, is something I didn't expect but McBain manages to make their relationship believable.

Cop Hater takes place during a heat wave and all of the characters have frayed nerves from the beginning. All of the cops wonder which of them will be next, as did this reader. One thing I liked is that while Carella is the lead, he's no super cop and no angel. While the mystery wasn't solveable, the killings made sense once the motivations behind them were explained.

It's a pretty quick read. I enjoyed it enough that I'll read the next couple but McBain wrote 50-something of these things so I'm not sure I'll attempt to ever read all of them.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,733 reviews648 followers
June 9, 2017
An engaging start for Steve Carella and the rest of the 87th Precinct gang. The author, writing as Ed McBain, is on to something big. Something that has had a major influence on storytelling in movies, TV, and the growth of the reality cop genre. You may have seen these quotes but they are worth including:

"I think Evan Hunter, known by that name or as Ed McBain, was one of the most influential writers of the postwar generation. He was the first writer to successfully merge realism with genre fiction, and by so doing I think he may actually have created the kind of popular fiction that drove the best-seller lists and lit up the American imagination in the years 1960 to 2000. Books as disparate as The New Centurions, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Godfather, Black Sunday, and The Shining all owe a debt to Evan Hunter, who taught a whole generation of baby boomers how to write stories that were not only entertaining but that truthfully reflected the times and the culture. He will be remembered for bringing the so-called "police procedural" into the modern age, but he did so much more than that. And he was one hell of a nice man." --Stephen King

"Way back in the mid-1970s, when I was a new writer and police series were very big, my editor asked me to do a series called Joe Ryker, NYPD. I had no idea how to write a police detective novel, but the editor handed me a stack of books and said, "These are the 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain. Read them and you’ll know everything you need to know about police novels." After I read the first book--which I think was Let’s Hear It for the Deaf Man--I was hooked, and I read every Ed McBain I could get my hands on. Then I sat down and wrote my own detective novel, The Sniper, featuring Joe Ryker. My series never reached the heights of the 87th Precinct series, but by reading those classic masterpieces, I learned all I needed to know about urban crime and how detectives think and act. And I had a hell of a time learning from the master. Years later, when I actually got to meet Ed McBain/Evan Hunter, I told him this story, and he said, "I would have liked it better if my books inspired you to become a detective instead of becoming my competition." Evan and I became friends, and I was privileged to know him and honored to be in his company. I remain indebted to him for his good advice over the years. But most of all, I thank him for hundreds of hours of great reading." --Nelson DeMille

I love these procedurals and I hope to reread a few in the coming years.
Profile Image for Lynda.
204 reviews80 followers
January 1, 2015
I usually start with a corpse. I then ask myself how the corpse got to be that way and I try to find out - just as the cops would. I plot, loosely, usually a chapter or two ahead, going back to make sure that everything fits - all the clues are in the right places, all the bodies are accounted for...(I) believe strongly in the long arm of coincidence because I know cops well, I know how much it contributes to the solving of real police cases.
--Ed McBain, on writing an 87th Precinct novel.

For those readers who love the mystery/crime genre but have never read a McBain novel, you don't know what you're missing! McBain invented the police procedural.

The accolades for the late McBain are endless: Not only was he named Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America in 1986, he was the first American to ever win the Cartier Diamond Dagger -- the highest award of the British Crime Writers Association. From his very first novel, The Blackboard Jungle (1954), to his 55 bestselling 87th Precinct novels (spanning almost 50 years; the longest-running series in crime fiction), McBain wasn't just a master of crime fiction; he was the master.

For me, every American crime novel since - and many more besides - owes McBain a debt. McBain redrew the territory, the feel and the soul of the crime novel.

In paying homage to the master I have set myself a challenge to read and review the entire 87th precinct series in the next few months.

COP HATER [1956] - Book One

Cop Hater is the first of the 87th Precinct novels, originally published early in 1956 and made into a movie in 1958.


On a hot night in the middle of an oppressive New York summer, Detective Mike Reardon is on his way to work when he is shot down execution style. His fellow officers at the 87th, led by detectives Steve Carella and Hank Bush, can't come up with a motive. The investigation has barely started when Reardon's young partner, David Foster, is ambushed and gunned down as well. The 87th work hard using established techniques to try and solve the crime before someone else gets shot, tracing potential suspects and following up clues that all lead to blind alleys. Then a third detective is gunned down by the same shooter, but this time the dying detective makes sure the killer leaves behind a few clues for the investigating team. Ultimately Carella breaks the case in a suspenseful conclusion that the squad (and the reader) would never have guessed.

As with all of McBain’s novels, the police procedural is a key element to the story; with explanation as to the“why” and “how” of the crime and not merely the “who.”

Cop Hater isn’t the greatest entry in the 87th series; I think each book thereafter improved on its elements and ideas to create a more well-rounded work. However, it doesn't hurt to remind oneself that this novel was first published in 1956, and then you can see just how timeless McBain's novels are. Cop Hater describes exactly that mix of bureaucracy and banter that characterises police novels today and evidences why McBain is considered to have established the police procedural formula for the mystery/crime genre.

RATING: 3.5/5.0



The 87th Precinct is a police procedural series purposefully designed to be about a squadroom full of cops, each with different traits, who - when put together - would form a conglomerate hero. Throughout the series one cop steps forward in one novel, another in the next novel; cops get killed and disappear from the series, other cops come in; all of them are visible to varying extents in each of the books.


Over the years, many thousands of fans have come to know and love each of the characters. The good thing about this series is that none of the books need to be read in order, though the first book, Cop Hater is a brilliantly conceived beginning that sets everything up nicely for the books that follow.

The setting of the novels is primarily in Isola, a district of a large fictional city based on the New York City borough of Manhattan. Other districts in McBain's fictionalized version of New York correspond to NYC's other four boroughs, Calm's Point standing in for Brooklyn, Majesta representing Queens, Riverhead substituting for the Bronx, and Bethtown for Staten Island.

The 87th Precinct novels - all of which begin with the epigram:
The city in these pages is imaginary. The people, the places are all fictitious. Only the police routine is based on established investigatory techniques.
– are the books to which so much detective fiction is indebted.

In interviews and articles, McBain has freely admitted that his series was heavily influenced by the radio and TV series Dragnet. This introduction (above), simultaneously evoking and contradicting Dragnet's introductory phrase,
The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent
was apparently McBain's way of acknowledging the debt, yet announcing his intention to go his own way in every book.


Like a character from one of his novels, McBain had many disguises. He was born Salvatore A Lombino in New York City, but when he started writing, he was advised that a more Anglo-Saxon name would serve him better. So he adopted a pseudonym, or rather, many pseudonyms. They concealed not only his Italian origins, but also his prolificacy.


He went on to write under an impressive tally of six noms de plume - Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, Hunt Collins, Curt Cannon, Ezra Hannon and Ed McBain. It was under Hunter and McBain that he was most recognised.

At first, Hunter was the "serious" novelist, while the others wrote the money-spinners, the pseudonyms required because in the US, he said, "mystery fiction was considered a stepchild of literature". Hunter never quite managed to achieve the kind of acclaim (or sales) he desired, while McBain won over many critics who might otherwise find crime fiction tainted, and it is certainly the 87th Precinct novels that will ensure the writer a place in literary history.

From 1956 until his death, McBain's 87th Precinct novels appeared at a rate of approximately one or two novels a year.

From 1978 to 1998, McBain also published a series about lawyer Matthew Hope; books in this series appeared every year or two, and usually had titles derived from well-known children's stories.

Ed McBain sadly died from laryngeal cancer in 2005, aged 78.

87th Precinct books (and my reading progress)

Cop Hater (1956) - read Nov 2013
The Mugger (1956)
The Pusher (1956)
The Con Man (1957)
Killer’s Choice (1957)
Killer’s Payoff (1958)
Lady Killer (1958)
Killer’s Wedge (1959)
’til Death (1959)
King’s Ransom (1959)
Give the Boys a Great Big Hand (1960)
The Heckler (1960)
See Them Die (1960)
Lady, Lady I Did It (1961)
The Empty Hours (1962) [comprising three novellas]
Like Love (1962)
Ten Plus One (1963)
Axe (1964)
He Who Hesitates (1965)
Doll (1965)
80 Million Eyes (1966)
Fuzz (1968)
Shotgun (1969)
Jigsaw (1970)
Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here (1971)
Let’s Hear It for the Deaf Man (1972)
Sadie When She Died (1972)
Hail to the Chief (1973)
Bread (1974)
Blood Relatives (1975)
So Long as You Both Shall Live (1976)
Long Time No See (1977)
Calypso (1979)
Ghosts (1980)
Heat (1981)
Ice (1983)
Lightning (1984)
Eight Black Horses (1985)
Poison (1987)
Tricks (1987)
The Last Best Hope (1988) [cross-over novel featuring Hunter's Matthew Hope character]
Lullaby (1989)
Vespers (1990)
Widows (1991)
Kiss (1992)
Mischief (1993)
Romance (1995)
Nocturne (1997)
The Big Bad City (1999)
The Last Dance (2000)
Money, Money, Money (2001)
Fat Ollie’s Book (2002)
The Frumious Bandersnatch (2003)
Hark! (2004)
Fiddlers (2005)

Detectives of the 87th

Steve Carella - Dogged and persistent; no genius, but usually able to piece together a case. Over the course of the series, Carella marries and raises a family. During investigations Carella is most often partnered with Meyer, Hawes, or Kling.
Meyer Meyer - Bald, friendly-but-cynical Jewish cop. His unusual name was given to him by his father as a joke; as a consequence of all the childhood teasing he endured, Meyer now has almost endless patience.
Bert Kling - Young and impulsive, though a generally solid detective. Goes through numerous romantic entanglements.
Cotton Hawes - A slightly later addition to the cast. Hawes is tall, good-looking and extremely competent at his job.
Arthur Brown - The squad's only black detective.
Hal Willis - The 87th's shortest detective, he became a police officer just before an official height requirement was instituted.
Eileen Burke - Burke is originally introduced as an undercover detective who works with the precinct on special assignments. In the final novels she joins the squad proper, becoming their only female detective.
Roger Havilland - Self-centered, corrupt, and generally a nasty, brutal piece of work.
Andy Parker - Lazy, boorish, and almost certainly corrupt. Parker succeeds Havilland as the most disliked member of the squad.
Bob O'Brien - A nice guy and a good cop. Unfortunately, O'Brien is notoriously unlucky, and is regarded as a jinx by most of the squad.
Richard Genero - Not especially bright, Genero has been over-promoted and is clearly in over his head. He's generally disliked by the other detectives.
Lt. Peter Byrnes - The sometimes curt detective squad commander.
Captain Frick - The vain, self-promoting captain.
Alf Miscolo - The clerk in charge of records and coffee.
Dave Murchison - The desk sergeant.
Profile Image for Supratim.
233 reviews443 followers
February 27, 2021
It is always a great pleasure to read the lean and mean novels of Ed McBain especially if it is from the 87th Precinct series.

I came across my first Ed McBain novel in a cabinet on a wall second hand bookshop. I am not joking, the shop was just a cabinet on the wall of a building. But, the shop had an incredible collection of English books - from the classics to contemporary, from literary fiction to pulp fiction and also comics. This shop had played a key role in developing my love affair with English fiction. Sadly, the place closed down a few years back. Enough of my nostalgia, let's go to the review part.

This book is the first book in the 87th Precinct police procedural novels and was published in 1956. The heat is unbearable in the unnamed city (some think it is New York) and some person with a .45 is on a cop killing spree. Police detective Steve Carella begins his search to find the killer. Is the killer a psycho with hatred towards the police or was he targeting specific cops for revenge or is there is very different motive altogether.

Trust me, this is a very enjoyable mystery novel. I have come across references to Ed McBain books in quite a few American crime novels. If memory serves me right, even Stephen King had mentioned Ed McBain novels in his story The Apt Pupil. Many people also acknowledge Ed McBain's lasting influence on the American cop novel.

If you want further motivation to read this book, then let me tell you that this book has found a place in the Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time by the UK-based Crime Writer's Association . The list was released in 1990 and can be found link: here

I would love to get my hands on more 87th Precinct novels, but these are very hard to find. Earlier they could be found in second hand bookshops at reasonable prices. With such shops going out of business at an alarming rate, maybe hard copies of such books will go beyond reach of readers with moderate means.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,785 reviews2,340 followers
May 16, 2016
My dad was a huge Ed McBain fan, so of course, I spent some of my teenage years with the guys in the 87th Precinct, but I never read the entire series, in order, starting at the beginning. Anyway, here goes . . . book number one.

It's been almost 30 years since I visited the gang, but there's an old, comfortable feeling right from the first pages. It was easy to settle right in and make myself at home. I've always loved McBain's descriptions. He makes it easy to experience the sights, the smells, and in this book, the heat.

The heat persisted all day long, a heavy yellow blanket that smothered the city in its woolly grip. Carella did not like the heat. He had never liked summer, even as a kid, and now that he was an adult and a cop, the only memorable characteristic summer seemed to have was that it made dead bodies stink quicker.

When one of their own is slain on his way to work, the 87th Precinct's finest are baffled. Was he killed because he was a cop? Then a second detective is murdered, and there seems no doubt that someone has a grudge against this precinct in particular.

Jesus, was it possible there was a nut loose? Somebody who'd marked the whole goddamn precinct as his special target?

This book could easily serve as a primer on how to write a police procedural. There are false leads, departmental politics, and even a member of the Foil Hat Brigade who insists cockroach-men are responsible for the cop-killings in their efforts at world domination.

And I NEVER saw the end coming.

My only complaint? I found the man/woman stuff, both in and out of the bedroom, to be a little awkward. McBain is obviously more comfortable writing about "just the boys," and that's okay with me.

My copy includes a fascinating introduction to the series written by McBain himself in 1989. He mentions that he was hired by Pocket Books in 1955 to write a mystery series that would replace the current reprints of popular, but aging Erle Stanley Gardner.

...it seemed to me that a single cop did not a series make, and it further seemed to me that something new in the annals of police procedurals (I don't even know if they were called that back then) would be a squad room full of cops, each with different traits, who when put together, would form a conglomerate hero.

And thus, the 87th Precinct series was born.

I was also surprised to learn that the series is set NOT in New York City, just a city LIKE New York. He really fooled me. Thanks to these books, I spent a few of my teenage years planning to be a NYC cop. (Of course, I also wanted to be a doctor-cowgirl-artist-writer for SNL, too...and you can guess how those things worked out...)

Well, only 54 more books to go . . .
Profile Image for Gary Sundell.
340 reviews51 followers
August 5, 2018
The first entry in the 87th Precinct series. The series starts with a bang. The weather and the city are "characters" in this tale along with the cops of the 87th. The city of Isola isn't as fleshed out in this first book as it is in later books.
Profile Image for Leah.
1,384 reviews209 followers
September 20, 2017
A real classic...

When a cop is shot down in the street one night, the squad from the 87th Precinct in Isola swing into action. At first the reason for the shooting isn't known. Was it random? Was it personal? But when another cop from the precinct is killed in the same way it begins to look like there's a cop hater on the loose. Now Detective Steve Carella and his colleagues have two reasons to find the killer quickly – to get justice for their fellow officers and to stop the perpetrator before he kills again...

First published in 1956, this is the first in the long-running, successful and influential 87th Precinct series. I read many of them in my teens, but this is the first time I've revisited the Precinct in decades. I have no memory of the individual plots, but vividly remember the setting and several of the characters – a testimony to how well drawn they are. In this one Steve Carella is the main focus but as the series progressed McBain developed an entire group of detectives who took their turn in the spotlight, which is why the series is known by the name of the squad rather than any one detective. Carella stays at the forefront more than the other detectives overall, though, throughout the series. The books are based in Isola, an area of a major city which is clearly a fictionalised New York. The various boroughs have been given different names but are apparently recognisable to people who know the city (which I only do through books and TV or movies - I suspect my first impressions of New York may in fact have come from this series).

The style seems to me like a kind of crossover point between the hardboiled fiction of Hammett, Chandler and their generation, and the more modern police procedural that would come to the fore and perhaps dominate crime fiction over the next few decades. (I hasten to add I'm no expert and not particularly widely-read, especially in American crime fiction, so this is just my own impression – perhaps other writers had been making the transition before McBain got there.) When he writes about the city – the soaring skylines, the dazzling lights, the display of wealth and glamour barely hiding the crime, corruption and violence down on the streets – it reads like pure noir; and in this one there's a femme fatale who equals any of the greats, oozing sexuality and confidence in her power over men.

But when he writes about Carella and the squad his tone is warmer, less hard-edged. While hardboiled and noir detectives always seem to be loners, rather mysterious men without much in the way of backstory, McBain's police officers are real humans, who joke and watch sports, who have wives and children. Personally I prefer that mix to pure noir – McBain's detectives aren't always wholly likeable, but they're human enough to allow me to care about them. Also, because he uses an entire squad as his protagonist, each individual is more expendable than the single hero or partnership of many other authors, so there's always an air of real suspense as to whether they will come through dangerous situations. They don't always...

The plot is excellent – I won't give any spoilers, but I will say that it was only just before the reveal that I really got any idea of where it was heading. McBain creates great atmosphere with his writing, which actually is of much higher quality than I remembered. Some of the scenes had me on the edge of my seat and he left me shocked more than once, but without ever stepping over the credibility line. In fact, realism is at the heart of the book – these detectives have to rely on doing the legwork, using informants and hoping for lucky breaks. There's a fair amount of casual police brutality, with the impression that this was the norm back then, and rather approved of than otherwise, both within the service and by society in general (and, I suspect, by McBain himself). Times change – depictions of casual and repeated brutality by police protagonists in contemporary British crime fiction annoy me because it wouldn't be considered acceptable here today and so jars as unrealistic. But it feels right in this book, and isn't over-emphasised; it's just part of the job.

There's also a strand about the relationship between the police and the press, with an irresponsible journalist creating problems for the investigation. This is handled very well, with the reader put firmly on the side of the police. They may not always be nice guys, but McBain leaves us in no doubt that they're the good guys. And yes, I do mean guys – no women yet in this detective squad. Women are strictly either femmes fatales or loving wives and girlfriends. Well, it was the '50s!

The ending has aspects of the thriller and again reverts to a more noir-ish feel as we discover the motivation behind the crimes.

I was expecting to like this but perhaps to find it a bit dated. In fact, I loved it. Writing, setting, atmosphere, characterisation – all superb. While some of the attitudes are obviously a bit dated, the storytelling isn't at all, and the vices and weaknesses of the human animal haven't changed much over the years. Excellent stuff – definitely a classic of the genre, and highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a realistic police procedural with an edge of noir.

Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,027 followers
October 22, 2014
Mine is a 1989 edition by Books On Tape. Not abridged, read by Paul Shay who added absolutely NOTHING to the book. Actually, his voice just sucked. It wasn't a bad novel, although dated. That added to & subtracted from it, but more adds, IMO. I got a little tired of McBain explaining things that we've come to take for granted like fingerprints, but I guess some of the stuff wasn't common knowledge back when he wrote it. It really added to the atmosphere & tone, though.

The tone of the book is dogged. It's hot, damn hot. The city is cooking & on the edge when a cop is killed. The investigation starts & goes on. The cops are snatching at rags & being complete jerks about every thread they can find, but they keep trudging along. They don't have electronic data, just file cards, etc... No Internet, cell phones or anything. How did they solve anything? Sheer brute determination.

Unfortunately, when read in Shay's monotone, I wanted to scream after a while. It was too depressing & not going anywhere. I almost didn't continue, but heard the book was good. I'm glad I hung in there. It was. It might have even been worth another star if the reader hadn't made me want to cut my throat. So, I'll look for another by this author, if not by this reader.
Profile Image for John.
1,141 reviews84 followers
March 21, 2023
The first of the 87th Precinct books. Of course it’s dated and police forensic science has moved on. I liked the characterisations and the brutality of the writing. Three detectives murdered and there is a heatwave in the city. All are shot with a .45. The detectives investigating use procedures to eliminate suspects. However, it is a reporter with a story that brings the murderer out. I did figure out who was behind the murders and wondered why she didn’t just leave him or runaway.

Overall I enjoyed the story and will keep an eye out for more.
Profile Image for Toby.
831 reviews328 followers
January 18, 2013
My first experience of the 87th Precinct novels was good fun, unexpected in its style and content but an enjoyable read. Having recently read Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets I felt that the banter and camerarderie of the station house detectives felt both familiar and authentic which for me helped to give the book the edge over continuing or giving up early on.

It's a novel that's nearly 60 years old now and it hasn't really dated which is incredibly impressive. Sure we've all become immune to being impressed with the forensic nature of police work after the saturation of our daily lives with CSi and it's clones not to mention the many books that are constantly written featuring pathologists, forensic experts, bone cutters and whatever else trashy authors like Kathy Reichs and James Patterson come up with in an attempt to shift units. But Ed McBain actually explains it so that you can understand it, he includes graphs and charts to simplify it further and also adds a nice touch to the reading experience. I found myself rolling my eyes early on, as if I found his explanations unnecessary but then realised that actually I might have heard this stuff repeated ad infinitum but I hadn't actually learned it. A crime novel that actually educates the reader but doesn't treat them like a child at the same time? Cool.

The characters were not fully realised but you manage to a get a fair sense of who they are and of course it's counteracted by the fact that you know there are so many more novels written about these guys which will hopefully allow them to grow and add depth over time. In this way it really is like a fly on the wall TV show. I read somewhere that this was the basis for Hill Street Blues (which I haven't seen) but it has definitely leant itself to inspiring countless cop shows most notably in my mind is the show based on the David Simon book mentioned above, Homicide Life On The Street.

I should note that it's actually quite funny in parts, like true human interraction tough times and the everyday life of work are made better with humour and the observation of the behaviour of cops gathered together is another high point for Ed McBain.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 10 books420 followers
June 10, 2013
If I had forgotten why I liked Ed McBain, COP HATER would have made that process a whole lot easier for me. As it was, this was one novel of his that I knew I hadn’t read (so why not start at the ground floor?), and this was a series I knew I enjoyed, mainly because it’s built around a real (albeit made-up) world with a group of 87th Precinct detectives leading the charge, any of whom could end up on the cutting room floor at any time for any reason. If that isn’t enough to scare you straight, then three dead bodies will certainly do the trick, all in less than 225 pages.

Needless to say, I was picking grit and grime out of my teeth with a toothpick; I felt a sudden need to wear a shirt and tie; and despite living in New Mexico where humidity often becomes a distant mirage, I could cut through the air with my hand.

Steve Carella packed more than enough punch for me, and he was probably my favorite male. Sure, he has his problems and his demons, but that only adds to his character, the way a scar might. As for the women, Alice Bush has more than her share of feminine wiles. She’s a pleasure palace packed full of sin, and she turned a simple bedroom undressing into a legendary event, with a 100 piece orchestra not so far out of the equation.

Which brings me to a tangent and possible spoiler, so you may want to avert your eyes now. This novel was first written in 1956, and I must admit I’m a bit envious of those times. Forget the stick-thin, runway fashion models with breasts the size of peanuts and legs the size of anemic tree branches. Bring on the women with curves and backsides that can barely be described and legs that could suck the life right out of a man. If all women believe that stick-thin is the new utopia, I may just have to cry. End tangent.

If you like your eggs hard-boiled, and you want more than a little realism in your fiction (circa 1956), then you’ll probably want to wrap both hands around this novel and hold on tight.
Profile Image for The Girl with the Sagittarius Tattoo.
2,125 reviews268 followers
August 16, 2022
I was pleasantly surprised by Cop Hater! Sometimes these classics come off cheesy and ridiculous, but this struck me like movie night with a James Cagney black-and-white.

Detective Mike Reardon is late for his shift at the 87th Precinct, and the cops in the bullpen are thinking of ways to give him a hard time. Meanwhile, a call comes in reporting a body on a sidewalk. Dets. Foster and Carella shag the call, and after checking his pockets (empty), they roll him over. Even with his face badly damaged by a GSW, they can clearly see it's Reardon.

I am often surprised by how gritty 40's and 50's literature can be. I totally drank my parents' kool-aid about it being a more innocent time. McBain's style is deliciously pulpy and sensational, and I bet it's more representative of the kinds of books that were flying off the shelf back then than I'd been led to believe. If you enjoy old crime flicks and Perry Mason's unique style of cross examination, you will enjoy Ed McBain's 1950's crime novels.
Profile Image for Charles Dee Mitchell.
853 reviews56 followers
May 15, 2016
Ed McBain's first novel in the 87th Precinct series is now a 60 year old book. It holds up well, and the period details -- which were not "period details" when they were written -- provide atmospheric touches that help the reader visualize the action. McBain's prose that provides commentary on the setting and story is sub-Chandleresque, but his dialog is pitch-perfect when moving from the precinct house to neighborhood bars to the daily line-up of perps. And his plotting never flags.

McBain, who was really bestselling author Even Hunter (who was really Salvatore Albert Lombino), decided to make his crime series based around the precinct and his fictionalized New York City rather than a particular character. This was a concept that served him for over fifty novels. If the death rate in Cop Hater is at all typical, the 87th will require a constant flow of new hires.
Profile Image for Ed.
Author 42 books2,692 followers
May 1, 2009
Robust first title (1956) starts the long-running 87th Precinct cop series. "Cop hater" takes out cops. Uses lots of 1950s CSI forensics. Heat wave hitting Isola (sort of made-up city) jacks up the misery. Terse dialogue.
Profile Image for Bill.
908 reviews161 followers
September 8, 2016
Ed McBain's first (of many!) 87th Precinct novels is a staightforward police procedural story. For a novel written in 1956 there are some moments of surprising violence, but the atmosphere the author creates is always one of believability.
Profile Image for Ellis.
1,210 reviews136 followers
February 14, 2013
Here is a novel where the men are the men, the women are the women, and never the 'twain shall understand each other. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just leads to some pretty chuckle-worthy writing in regards to the vast gulf between the two sexes, such as where Carella finds his partner’s wife & their home so female & cloying that he somehow “had the feeling she would suddenly explode into a thousand flying fragments of breast and hip & thigh, splashed over the landscape like a Dali painting.” Well, naturally, that’ll happen sometimes. Later, his boss muses,”These women never cut the umbilical cord. We get raised by one woman, and then when we’re ripe, we get turned over to another woman.” He shakes his head sadly, a man “trapped in the labial folds of a society structure." I had to laugh, because when this was written in 1956, it really was all about women controlling men, wasn’t it?

But never fear, there’s also some guy murdering cops & it’s really, really hot. This does a great job capturing the utter hopelessness of a heat wave. I loathe the heat, I totally hate the months May through August, and here I haven’t even had to capture a nefarious murderer/fear for my very law-enforcement life during them! I liked this book well enough, especially since it was a 50 degree day when I read it, and if further books continue to use the 87th precinct & the characters that made it out of this one alive as a jumping-off point into slightly old-fashioned crime dramas, then I’m game. However, if the killer reveals continue to be this silly, I don’t know how serious I can get about liking Ed McBain.
Profile Image for Steve.
802 reviews225 followers
September 11, 2020
I wanted to rate this one higher, since it had a real cool retro vibe that didn't bore me. Plain clothes detectives start getting popped in a largely unairconditioned and sweating New York in the late fifties. A mad man or something else? While you're trying to figure that out, McBain dumps considerable portions of standard police procedure on you, which was probably pretty interesting and groundbreaking back in the day, some gritty language (shit, screw, etc.), and a few chicks needing showers to cool off. Still, toward the end, McBain took the quick and easy way out via a not-to-be-believed conversation between a detective and a scuzzy reporter. That said, McBain can be an excellent writer. Yes, the story is dated, but in this case I admired McBain's use of dialogue and character development. When it comes to dialogue, McBain can be just as good as Elmore Leonard. His plot developments, at least in this first entry of the 87th series, were at times laughable. On the other hand, his characters, often tormented or troubled, had a depth you don't normally find in crime book series. The book is worth reading just to see femme fatale Alice Bush. She's quite a nasty creation. If Dostoevsky had been writing crime novels in the late 50s, Alice would have been the kind of monster he could have come up with in a fever moment.
Profile Image for Michael.
423 reviews49 followers
February 3, 2012
Review from Badelynge.
This is the first book in Ed McBain's long running police procedural series 87th Precinct. McBain would continue writing the ongoing series for half a century until 2005, the year of his death.
Someone is killing cops with a 45 calibre handgun. Steve Carella and the rest of the precinct have to find the killer before he kills again. Carella and Teddy are unmarried still and between the exhaustive investigation the pair try to snatch enough time together to decide on a date for the wedding.
As with quite a few of his books McBain makes good use of the weather conditions. You can almost feel the heat throughout. The last time I read one of these it was to the other polar extreme, with the city literally freezing in the depth and dark of winter. What really makes 87th Precinct books work though is the to and fro between the cops, the banter, some of it digging into the investigations or just the mix of everyday talk of a bunch of guys doing a day to day job. The plot doesn't rule him. He takes time to develop characters and aspects of the city that sometimes have little or nothing to do with the central plot line. It's all canvas for the picture. Don't expect summarised forensic reports either. For example if Carella gets a lab or ballistic report expect to hear it line for line. With this being the first book there's quite a lot of technical and scientific stuff to cover too. Fingerprints - here comes a breakdown of the chemical process that results in finger prints being created. It's just one of those signature elements that makes the series what it is.
Cop Hater isn't going to be the best book in the series but it does serve as a great introduction. The book was adapted for a 1958 movie of the same name starring Robert Loggia in the Carella/Carelli role.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
376 reviews51 followers
February 21, 2023
Cop Hater is the first in the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain, set in the fictional Manhattan-like city of Isola. The series follows a few core characters, with most of them entering and leaving throughout the 50-plus installments, which adds a realistic atmosphere to the stories. Since the early books were written beginning in the 1950s, the books have a slightly outdated feel to them, but can also come across as very nostalgic. They certainly remind me of the police procedurals of the early 1980s, with few female characters and more than their fair share of macho men. However, there is still a certain appeal to reading them, hence the nostalgia.

Cop Hater, itself, revolves around the killing of several police officers and the manhunt that ensues. Despite the mystery not being a traditional whodunnit with clues leading to the suspect, there is still a more than average chance the reader will guess the outcome from very early on. The suspects aren't exactly thick on the ground, but this doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the read.

If your looking for a quick palate cleanser type book, I'd recommend visiting the 87th Precinct and getting lost in a little retro police story. You can't really go wrong.
Profile Image for Richard.
1,766 reviews149 followers
December 4, 2015
During my late teens when I first discovered serious reading for myself I found the 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain. Now in my later years I have a desire to read them all in sequence and have an reflection. Cop Hater was first published in 1956 and therefore the books very much follow my own timeframe in life.
Set in a fictional USA city, but owing a lot to New York City they are gritty police procedurals moving away from the lone PI and focusing on the day to day activities of a police department and the wider life stories of the detectives away from work.
I am caught up in the warm descriptions,lazy dialogue that create and sustain this world in the 87th Precinct. This opening book quickly establishes the scene and grabs your attention. Nothing motivates a group of detectives more than another officer down and when that person is from their own Precinct it is more than personal.
This novel then shares the fears and frustrations as the detectives try to hunt down the killer; when he strikes again they recognise they may quickly be out of time.
Loved it and found the inclusion of documents facinating. So much to enjoy and look forward to in further books.
Profile Image for Bruce Beckham.
Author 33 books405 followers
September 12, 2021

I mean me. There was I, cynically thinking this is about as one-dimensional as a plot gets, only to find I had been lured into exactly the trap I’m sure the author intended. Why didn’t I see that ending coming? Yes, dumb!

It is a slim novel, a novella really, only 3 hours 44 minutes reading time according to Kindle – and the terse language and fast-paced action makes it seem even shorter. This does not distract from the enjoyment, other than it finished too soon for my liking.

Its brevity makes it a challenge to reprise the story, but the title ‘Cop Hater’ says much of what there is to suppose. In this, book #1 of 55 in the 87th Precinct series (set in the fictitious nearly-New-York city of Isola), plain-clothes detectives are systematically gunned down, seemingly without motive. Surviving colleagues find themselves at a loss for what to do, demoralised by the oppressive summer heat (which is almost a character in itself, acting in league with the killer) – other than to wonder which of them will be next.

As I have suggested, there is a nifty twist. It takes a few moments for this to sink in, but when it does, suddenly a lot of previously innocuous-looking pieces of the jigsaw drop into place. If there might be a drawback it is that I shall be on guard next time. But I am encouraged to explore further.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,638 reviews598 followers
May 3, 2020
This is the very first of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels and was first published in the US in 1956 (although it wasn't released in the UK until 1958). In the introduction, Ed McBain explains how the series came about and why he decided to base the books on a squadroom of police detectives, as opposed to one particular hero, as well as why he opted for an anonymous city, loosely based on New York. Does it matter that the book is now somewhat dated, that the slang is obviously from another era and that the characters hardly age as you read through the series? Not at all. Ed McBain created a whole world around these characters and, if you do read this series, you will get to know, and care about, them.

One of the main characters in this series is Steve Carella, who appears in this first novel. There is a heat wave in the city and the detectives are faced with enough problems, when a member of the squad is gunned down in an apparently motiveless murder. When another detective is also shot, it is apparent that there is someone targeting the 87th Precinct - but why and who? If things were not bad enough, the press have their own ideas about the murders which make a bad situation infinitely worse.

Ed McBain (the pen name for Evan Hunter) was excellent at setting a scene and he opens this novel with a view of his city and of a man, getting ready to go to work, and being gunned down on the street. This is a fantastic start to a very long running series which, unlike many, just gets better and better.
Profile Image for Bill.
1,615 reviews75 followers
April 6, 2018
Cop Hater is the first 87th Precinct mystery by Ed McBain. I'd only really started to get interested in McBain's stories (this one was initially published 1956) and I finally found a copy of the 1st book, this past month. It was with anticipation that I started to read it a week ago.
What a great, entertaining story! It's a simple story that reminds me of the best cop TV shows; Law and Order, Dragnet. A police detective is murdered by being shot in the back. It starts a major investigation by the detectives of his precinct, the 87th Precinct. The story is methodical, there are nice explanations of forensic techniques and other police procedures and you get into the lives of the police detectives taking a major role in the particular investigation.
For a relatively simple, short story, a great deal happens and lots of excellent, interesting detail is provided.
I enjoyed everything about this initial 87th Precinct story and I have #2, The Mugger, teed up for my follow-on read. Even though it might not be profound or offer deep philosophical ideas, it presents an excellent look at how the police act in an investigation and is told in a tidy, entertaining way and was totally enjoyable. (5 stars)
Profile Image for Benoit Lelièvre.
Author 8 books136 followers
July 19, 2018
Solid. Almost great.

A cop novel where all the detectives in the precinct are the protagonists and they keep dying one after the other, shot by someone who seemingly didn't like cops. It seems formulaic when said like that, but it is surprisingly experimental and even a little dismissive of its own mystery (which is something I didn't like. It wrapped up too fast). Intriguing, perhaps revolutionary even. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill detective mystery.
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
702 reviews137 followers
August 21, 2015
COP HATER was published in 1956 and is the first in a long running series set in a fictional city resembling New York. At the time, the concept was unique. Rather than focusing on a single detective for his crime series, McBain featured the precinct itself as the main “character.” Through the continuity of the precinct, characters become familiar to the reader, then pass out of sight, or are glimpsed on their way in and out of the station, working on mundane daily cases. In this book, minor characters like rookie patrolman Bert Kling and lab technician Sam Grossman appear briefly only to play larger roles in subsequent books. Bert Kling is the main character in book #2.

McBain captures the feel of the '50's. Relentless summer heat and humidity drain the detectives in an era when air-conditioning was confined to movie theaters and the occasional restaurant. He captures the grit of the city with its closely partitioned ethnic neighborhoods of Irish, Black and Puerto Rican poor. Urban decay, the smells of garbage and darkened airless hallways fill out the scene. The banter is crude, macho. The rhythm of the dialog, the blunt staccato exchanges, effectively supports the gritty backdrop. A suspect doesn't pan out. “'He's got an alibi as long as the Texas panhandle'” Detective Bush laments.

The story opens with a gunshot murder. What makes this murder different is that the victim is a cop, Mike Reardon. Hank Bush and Steve Carella catch the call, and since Reardon was from their precinct, they conduct an active investigation parallel to the one conducted by the Homicide division. Bush is glum and cynical: “...I don't happen to think of cops as masterminds....All you need to be a detective is a strong pair of legs and a stubborn streak. The legs take you around to all the various dumps you have got to go to, and the stubborn streak keeps you from quitting. You follow each separate trail mechanically, and if you're lucky, one of the trails pays off. If you're not lucky, it doesn't. Period.”

Bush and Carella pursue several trails of dubious promise. Several scenarios are proposed. Did Reardon stumble on a crime being committed? Was he targeted due to a personal grudge? Or was this the work of a serial cop killer? The thinnest of evidence — word of someone in the area packing a gun of the same caliber, for example — governs the direction of the investigation. It is an era before “Miranda” and suspects are readily hauled in and pressured even if physical measures are not employed. A break will come from information on the streets, not forensics, and the hit or miss nature of the leads make the detectives particularly suspicious of even the most remote suspect: A vociferous loud-mouth venting against cops, or a resentful collar Reardon might have nailed.

Threaded into the crime narrative are glimpses of the personal lives of the detectives. Carella is wooing a woman named Teddy Franklin. Conspicuously, Teddy is deaf, highlighting her vulnerability and Carella's sensitivity. Bush meanwhile reflects on his own wife Alice as he conducts the requisite interview with Reardon's grieving widow.

One of the more curious procedures described in the book is “the lineup.” An assortment of cops from the area precincts are required to view everyone placed in holding over the last 24 hours. The goal is not to identify a suspect. It's to familiarize the cops with a cross-section of the “usual suspects.” The reinforcement of a personal encounter will train them to recognize criminal cliques and MO's, a snapshot of street life.

Despite its age, this book is still entertaining. I read it mainly for its historical place in crime fiction writing.

Two reviews of this book are worth looking at. WARNING. The second site contains significant spoilers.

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