Literary Agents, Murder, and Scandal REVIEWING Cut Me In

Cut Me In

Author: Ed McBain (pseudonym for Hunt Collins)
Genre: Crime Mystery
Year: 2016 Hard Case Crime (initially published 1954)


When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it. 

Maybe no one liked Del Gilbert a whole lot, not the men he ruthlessly did business with, not the woman who discovered his other lovers, not even his partner in the Gilbert and Blake literary agency -- me. But when I found him shot to death on the floor of his office, I had no choice. I had to track down the person responsible. And not just to lay Del to rest, either. Next to his body, the office safe was wide open, and a contract worth millions was missing...


This book is a republishing of a noir novel, by Hard Case Crime. Hard Case Crime is a pulp crime fiction publisher. They release crime mysteries by various authors. I've read two before, but both were by one of my favorite authors -- Michael Crichton, using the pen name John Lange. He wrote more than two, and I own a couple other ones I still need to read, but I wanted a change of pace. I kind of wanted to see what other voices and writing styles HCC had to offer. This one is by Ed McBain, which is the pseudonym of Hunt Collins. I've heard of the 87th Precinct series by McBain, but I've never read it and figured it would be fun to check out a more low key, standalone detective fiction novel. 

As per the Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction, this is an amateur detective fiction story because: 

1. Crime - The partner in a literary agency, Del Gilbert, is dead and a contract is missing
2. A detective outside the police system - literary agent definitely seems outside the police system
3. Negative/Bumbling police - The officer in charge of investigating this crime doesn't listen to very much Blake (the main character) has to say, and negates most of the conversations they have. Also, Blake solves the crime, not the officer. 
4. Clues provided - Yep. We have a fun little trail to track for sure, starting with the contract
5. Criminal, Means, Motive & Opportunity - Most definitely. We have several options for a criminal and motives, but only one adds up at the end of the day. 

The last time I reviewed an amateur detective story, I wasn't very pleased (see: This Pen for Hire). This time, are things any different? 

Comparatively speaking, yes. It was quick to read, which is always a plus. I took about 2 mornings and half an evening to get through this one. It was also a very straightforward story and I appreciate when my pulp fiction is simple and to the point. Literary partner is dead, main character has to find out who killed him and why, while trying to seal a business deal. Was it one of the women Gilbert had an affair with? Was it his wife who found out about his affairs? Was it the Hollywood guys wanting to get the rights included on the contract? Or was it the weird guy who wants the agency to represent his novel? While I generally enjoyed the story, I also found it to be predictable. One quarter or a third of the way through, I had made my guess about who did it, and why. By the end, I was right. The story wrap up was clean, quick, and efficient. 

Some issues I had include the relevance of some chapters and the narrative voice/main character. This story is told in first person by Josh Blake, Del Gilbert's partner at work, who I will refer to as simple Blake from here on out. Blake tells the story, and occasionally, he goes on tangents. These tangents rely mostly on his work. As much as I love to hear about the background dealings of literary agents, it just didn't feel like it added much to the mystery of the story. If the murder had tied back into some of that, I feel like it would've worked a lot better. As it is, it doesn't and there is too much side information. The sidetracking doesn't even serve as a red herring, so really there is no point to it. I got really dragged down during the chapters that included these ramblings and feel like they should've been edited out. Maybe they were kept to increase the page count or to make it feel like the workspace and personnel were actually more relevant. I'm not sure, but I can't say I was a fan of these passages. 

I did think it was really interesting to have a literary agent as an amateur detective at times. For example, I thought it was pretty meta/self-aware of the work to have a person familiar with and actually use detective fiction and general fiction terminology as an amateur detective. That was a fun, creative little touch that other books I've read in this genre haven't done. 

Overall, this book is a good time to fill a day or two, but it also isn't anything to write home about. This is not my favorite Hard Case Crime book, and Blake is not my favorite amateur detective. I don't think he breaks into my top listing at all. I'll read more Hard Case Crime novels if I get the chance to, but I really don't think this particular novel is a must. I don't think I will ever feel the need to re-read it or recommend it. I give Cut Me In a Lone Star rating of ✯✯, which IS higher than the rating I gave to This Pen For Hire, but it isn't better by a whole lot. I would still like to give the 87th Precinct a looksee at some point, to see if McBain/Collins has a more distinct voice among a different set of characters than he had in this one.