The City In These Pages
500 copy jacketed Hardcover Novella
10 GBP/$15USD, 80 Pages
Review by Kent Knopp-Schwyn
In his introduction, David Langford re-introduces the reader to the huge legacy of the 87th precinct stories by Ed McBain. He then posits that John Grant (nee Paul Barnett) is the perfect author to pen a fantastical homage that plays with and expands on this legacy. Thus, with a sharp eye on action and the sure ability to present the reader with a wide and vast cosmology, John Grant has penned an amazing tale that stands proud alongside all the 87th Precinct stories.
The City in These Pages is replete with snappy dialogue and sharp repartee between Pincus and Moto, the two lead detectives investigating a string of hilariously grisly murders in 14th Precinct of New Amsterdam. As this is a PS Publication, the reader constantly expects something new or fantastic around every corner or that the tale takes place on a far-flung world set in some strange new universe. Instead, Mr. Grant provides just enough detail to keep the reader off balance continually guessing as to where and when the story actually takes place.
At its heart, The City in These Pages is a straight ahead mystery/procedural narrative that follows two world-weary and smart-alecky detectives as they try to ferret out clues in order to determine the identity of the latest serial killer. That the murders take place in New Amsterdam, that the killer is dubbed “Humor Guy” and that the murders seem to happen in plain sight but offer few clues to our weary detectives only add to the spice of the narrative. Still, Detectives Pincus and Moto trod steadily along the expected path until they ultimately stop the crimes and seem to solve the mystery despite the dearth of clues at each crime scene.
Or does the detective duo actually solve anything? Very cagily, Mr. Grant, drops in concepts and ideas about the cosmology of existence that call into question the very existence of the fictional world of which he writes. Particularly, these notions call into question the actual nature and reality of New Amsterdam and all the characters therein. In the end, the resolution to the solution to the mystery and the discovery of the killer’s identity is less important than the story itself and the reader’s enjoyment thereof. Make no mistake; this is a very brisk and enjoyable read – effective on many different levels.