BOOK REVIEW / Bookshop Window: Mary, Mary - Ed McBain: Heinemann, pounds 14.99

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The Independent Culture
This is the 10th novel featuring Florida lawyer Matthew Hope. The device - all the books have fairy-tale or nursery-rhyme titles - looks increasingly tired; you just know this one will be about a contrary woman who has a garden full of bells and shells. And so it turns out. The garden also contains the sexually mutilated bodies of three little girls. Things do not look good for our gardener, Mary Barton, especially since her neighbour saw her burying one of them in the moonlight. The electric chair looms, and even Hope begins to doubt her innocence . . . But there's little real suspense; half the book is taken up with a dullish trial. The payoff is so clearly signalled that you assume McBain, being a pro, is conducting a complicated double-bluff. He isn't: what you see is what you get. Stick to the 87th Precinct.