Friday, January 28, 2005

Improvisation by Ed McBain

"Improvisation" by Ed McBain, Dangerous Women Edited by Otto Penzler, Mysterious Press, Trade Paperback, $13.95

This is a story of lust for success, with a little (very little) sexual lust thrown in as well.

Will, a Gulf War veteran, tries to pick up a beautiful blonde (of course) in a bar. Unfortunately for him, she's willing to be picked up. When he uses his lame pickup line, "Well, what will we do for excitement tonight," she replies, "Why don't we kill somebody?" Will thinks she's just responding in an original way to his mating dance.

There's not much mystery here, so I suppose you could call this a suspense story. Unfortunately I knew where the story was going by the bottom of the second page, so the suspense was a little lacking.

Will and Jessica pick their supposed victim, a mousy little woman of the genus File Clerk. Will, being besotted with liquor and lust (that very little bit of sex I mentioned above), believes he's hit the jackpot and will soon be indulging in a little "double play", never mind that the other woman falls on the frumpy side of the attractiveness line.

Will is certainly not the sharpest pencil in the box, and by the time he figures out what's really going on, it is much, much too late.

I was disappointed in this story. As I said, the suspense was AWOL, and when Mr. McBain did construct a situation that would allow almost unlimited potential for drama, he gives it little more than lip service. In addition, in the third paragraph before the end, he makes a viewpoint error worthy of a rank beginner.

About the only thing he did right was make the two women ultimately annoying. At least he made me feel some kind of emotion.

In short, dissatisfying.