I've mentioned my admiration of Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain, among many other pseudonyms) before. Here, here, and here, for example. So it was with a little bit of sadness and regret that I picked up Fiddlers, which, because of McBain's recent death, is probably the last of the 87th Precinct novels.
McBain hasn't lost a step with age or illness. I'm sure you can think of a writer or two who should have stopped writing long before the end of a long career, like an athlete who plays one season too long. McBain wasn't one of those writers. He's just as sharp now as he was when I first read one of his books more than 50 years ago. Maybe sharper. I think that his body of work is about as impressive as that of any writer during the second half of the 20th century.
For me, it was impossible to read Fiddlers without having McBain's final illness in mind, and I'm convinced that he had it in mind, too. Just how much, I'm not sure. Is the book a grim joke in its own way? Autobiographical in any sense? I don't know. I do know that it's a typically well-written procedural with appearances by Steve Carella, Meyer, Bert Kling, Cotton Hawes, and Fat Ollie Weeks tracking down a serial killer. The stories of their personal lives aren't resolved, exactly, but I think readers who have been following them for many years, as I have, will be satisfied with their final appearances.
When I closed the book, I thought, "Well, that's it." But it's not. I can always go back and start over at the beginning of the series with books like The Mugger and The Pusher. I probably won't, but the possiblity is always there. McBain will be around for a long, long time.