On what should be the happiest day of his life — the day of his marriage to Angela Carella — the shy and affable Tommy Giordano is the target of not one but two murder efforts, involving several attempts on his life.

A car loses its brakes, rifle bullets bounce off a wall, a dangerous spider appears, a neighbor is shot dead, a cop is beaten up twice, a telescopic sight puts Tommy in its crosshairs, and then there’s the arsenic.

The perpetrator of one effort actually doesn’t want to kill Tommy, a bank executive trainee and Korean War veteran.  He just wants to put a scare into him and make him look bad.  But he’s pretty dopey, and his series of “scares” almost kill Tommy, not once but twice.  And the second time, with that goofy plan involving arsenic, he nearly takes out Angela, the sister of 87th Precinct detective Steve Carella, as well.

Carella is not at all happy about this.

But he’s not the one who makes that mad dash to interrupt Tommy and Angela on their wedding night — that’s Detective Bert Kling — because Steve’s on his way in another direction with his pregnant wife Teddy who’s gone into labor.

Second perpetrator

And Steve, at that point, doesn’t even know about the second perpetrator who, by the way, is very serious about taking out Tommy, and so is his beautiful knock-out of a girlfriend who actually does more than a little actual knocking out during the course of Ed McBain’s ninth 87th Precinct Novel, ‘Til Death.

She’s along, it seems, for the thrills, but the would-be killer, a large powerful man, called Neanderthal more than once by Detective Cotton Hawes, is wanting to carry out a promise he made years ago.

And this is all taking place on Tommy and Angela’s wedding day, most of it during the reception in the backyard of Antonio and Louisa Carella, the parents of Steve and Angela.



In ‘Til Death, McBain, as usual, is a close observer and describer of crime detection techniques and, even more, a close observer and describer of the homey details of the “family” of detectives in the 87th Precinct.

Such as, early in the novel, the problem that Detective Bob O’Brien is complaining to  Detective Meyer Meyer about — the coffee that Patrolman Alf Miscolo makes for the squad room.

“He used to make a good cup of coffee,” O’Brien said wistfully.  “I can remember times, especially during the winter, when I’d come in here off a plant or something and there was a cup of Miscolo’s coffee waiting for me and I’m telling you, Meyer, it made a man feel like a prince, a regular prince.  It had rich body, and aroma and flavor.”

“You’re wasting your time with police work,” Meyer said. “I’m serious, Bob.  You should become a television announcer.  You can sell coffee the way….”

O’Brien has a theory about why Miscolo’s coffee has gotten so bad:

“When he got shot.  Remember [in the McBain novel Killer’s Wedge] when that nutty dame was up here with a bottle of TNT and she shot Miscolo?….Well, right after Miscolo got out of the hospital, the first day he was on the job again, the coffee began to stink.  Now what do you suppose causes something like that, Meyer?”

And so on….until the two of them head out to track down some leads that Carella has given them about a guy back in Korea who had it in for Tommy.

And, well, it’s the investigatory routine that Meyer and O’Brien and the other 87th Precinct detectives follow that result in the capture of the perpetrators while most of the wedding-goers are blissfully unaware of the danger and threats.

And, then, it all comes pretty much to an end with a cop shouting an order at the top of his voice:

“Don’t drink that wine!”


Patrick T. Reardon


Written by : Patrick T. Reardon

For more than three decades Patrick T. Reardon was an urban affairs writer, a feature writer, a columnist, and an editor for the Chicago Tribune. In 2000 he was one of a team of 50 staff members who won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. Now a freelance writer and poet, he has contributed chapters to several books and is the author of Faith Stripped to Its Essence. His website is https://patricktreardon.com/.

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