Ed McBain, who also writes under the name Evan Hunter, is the author of more than a hundred novels, children books and screenplays (The Birds). He is perhaps most noted for his police procedural novels, which take place in New York's 87th Precinct. The Heckler was originally published in 1960; Pocket Books re-released the novel with a new afterword by the author. If you are a fan of McBain, then you may know The Heckler is the story that first introduces the cleverly elusive criminal mastermind known only as The Deaf Man.
It's a case of one hand not knowing what the other is doing. Detective Meyer Meyer is handling complaints from a handful of store owners; someone has been contacting the merchants, threatening harm if they don't close shop and move out of their building by the end of the month.
Detective Steve Carella has the body of a murder victim in the morgue, with no way of identifying the deceased man. He runs ads with a picture of the corpse's face in the city's newspapers, hoping someone will come forward and make a positive ID. (Remember, this is 1960 — not 2004).
McBain weaves a tight plot that couples the two cases. The only problem? The detectives have until the end of the month to piece the halves together. It becomes a deadly race against time, and the police do not know they are being played like pawns.
Witty and entertaining, McBain's The Heckler is a top-notch, well-plotted mystery. McBain is the type of author who focuses on the facts and the details. Nothing gets overlooked. From the beginning up to the explosive ending The Heckler is a satisfying read, told by a seasoned mystery storyteller.