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The Con Man

(87th Precinct #4)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  2,061 ratings  ·  145 reviews
A con man is plying his trade on the streets of Isola: conning a domestic for pocket change, businessmen for thousands, and even ladies in exchange for a little bit of love. You can see the world, meet a lot of nice people, imbibe some unique drinks, and make a ton money…all by conning them for their cash.

The question is: How far is he willing to go?

When a young woman's b
Kindle Edition, 216 pages
Published (first published 1957)
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Steven The 87th Precinct is part of an imaginary city with some resemblance to New York City, generally just referred to as "The City." Its boroughs include …moreThe 87th Precinct is part of an imaginary city with some resemblance to New York City, generally just referred to as "The City." Its boroughs include Isola, Majesta, Calm's Point, Bethtown and Riverhead. In terms of locations within the City, very little really seems to correspond to locations within the real NYC's five boroughs, although the population makeup, as seen in the various novels, is roughly similar in its ethnic clustering. The various media adaptations have mostly moved the action to real world locations -- New York City, Boston, Japan -- although the 1961-62 TV series named the setting Isola, the equivalent to Manhattan, rather than using the generic "the City" as McBain did.(less)
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 ·  2,061 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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James Thane
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fourth book in Ed McBain's famed 87th Precinct series and the one in which, it seems to me, he really finds his groove. By now, the major characters have all been introduced and we are comfortable with their back stories and personalities. Despite McBain's original intentions, Steve Carella has emerged as the first among equals in the lineup, and the series now has a "settled" feel to it.

As the story opens, a con man is working the streets of Isola, McBain's fictional city where the
Jeff Dickison
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good early (1957) 87th precinct novel featuring Carella and his beautiful wife, Teddy. Brown hunts down a con man low enough to steal $5.00 from a young girl while Carella is after a killer. Good procedurals, good action, good book. Recommended.
Aug 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
He snapped his fingers for the waiter, and while they waited for him to come to their table, she leaned over and whispered the three most expensive words in the English language.
"I love you."
And he looked at her with tender guile and answered with the three cheapest words in the English language.
"I love you."

Anyone can be a con man.

Some do it for cash.

You can remain a gentleman, pursue a life of romantic criminal adventure, see the world, meet a lot of nice people and drink a lot of cool drinks
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Con Man by Ed McBain is the 4th book in his 87th Precinct cop series. It's a simple cop story relatively but at the same time for all of its simplicity, also very rich.

Two crimes are being investigated by the detectives of the 87th Precinct. Arthur Brown, Det 2nd Grade, is looking into a pair of con men who are ripping off people. Det Steve Carella is investigating the discovery of a 'floater', the body of a woman found in the river, apparently murdered.

I enjoy the process of the various in
Christine PNW
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Several years ago Amazon put the 87th Precinct novels that have been released in kindle format on sale & I bought a ton of them. This is the second one I've read, and I primarily decided to delve into the backlist because I read a wikipedia article about Scandinavian Noir that suggested that one of the pioneering writers in that genre was influenced by McBain's 87th Precinct novels.

Stylistically, these are very different from modern police procedurals, with very stripped down language and charac
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, mystery, detective
The year turns and another 87th Precinct book breezes through. It's April in Isola. The cruellest month? Cruel enough anyway as the con is well and truly on. McBain relishes in his chosen theme. The con and the conmen themselves get a thorough going over by McBain's philosophically edged examination. The detectives of the 87th are trying to reel in a couple of tricksters who are working their way through the confidence trick handbook, fleecing the rich and poor for a fortune or a dime. Arthur Br ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
These early Ed McBain novels from the 1950s are now old enough to qualify almost as historical mysteries and the language and attitudes often seem staid, stilted, and outdated.

Did policemen really used to talk like that? I remember watching reruns of "Dragnet" years after the series first ran and I seem to recall that Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner did, in fact, employ some of this terminology and exhibit some of those attitudes, so, yeah, I guess maybe they really did talk like that.

In spite
Jun 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read two other books in Ed McBain's acclaimed "87th Precinct" books. I was in a bit of a book slump, so I thought I would check out "The Con Man", the 4th in the series. I like this series because it is realistic, the characters are usually likable, they are fast reads, and you can read them out of order. I especially like the older ones so far because it shows me a glimpse of what the police system was like in an urban area in the 1950's. It's a fun little blast to the past.

In "The Con M
Ian Sear
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The 4th book in the 87th Precinct crime/detective series and my favourite so far.

Didn't start off too well as it delved too deeply into details of procedure. I don't need to be told in great detail what the detective has to write in his report when a body is found. I'm also not that interested in knowing all the different methods of lifting fingerprints. If you can give me those details as part of the story then fine but paragraphs just listing them all is not the way to do it as it bores the r
Mar 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I've been trying to read these books in order. Although the plot of each is stand alone, the development of the characters defiantly builds from book to book. Reading them out of sequence would probably result in the odd spoiler here and there.

In this book there are a couple of con men loose in the city. These form two separate cases with a little bit of overlap.

Even though this was written in the 50's, it's still a decent crime story with lots of nostalgic value.

I don't have book #5 so will ta
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What's new? The always good Ed McBain writes a good book. What can you say that hasn't been said before. I can't think of anything, but it does create a problem for me. He wrote 55 books in this series, I've only read 4 and I'm 65 and I never read back to back books in the same series. So I have to go now cause I got some serious catching up to do.

Damn bucket list items, whatever happened to the concept of a leisurely retirement?
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries, kindle
This 4th entry in the 87th Precinct series again features Steve Carella & this time his deaf-mute wife Teddy plays a big part. While con men, big & small, are featured, this book is really a murder mystery at heart. ...more
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mcbain
this will be the....3rd? 4th? mcbain story i've it is the 5th....and all of them w/i the last year or two.

starts out:

everybody has a right to earn a living.
that's the american way. you get out there and sweat, and you make a buck. and you invest that buck in lemons and sugar. the water and ice, you get free. you've got yourself a little lemonade stand by the side of the road, and pretty soon, you're pulling in five bucks a week.


and then the gov't comes and mes
Feb 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series, police, mystery
A good book. Two main stories for the 87th precinct in this one. Detective Arthur Brown is the lead detective on a hunt for a con man tricking anyone from a young girl of her last $5 and sophisticated businessmen for hundreds. Detective Steve Carella is the lead on the hunt for a man who is poisoning young women and dumping them in the river; the "floaters" are found weeks or months later, making them much harder to identify and subsequently harder to track down the killer. Carella's beautiful d ...more
L.T. Fawkes
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Steve Carella of the 87th Precinct is on the trail of a con man. His only clue is a tattoo on the hand of one of his victims.

Ed McBain is a master of police procedural, mystery, urban noir, etc. His books are packed with cops and crooks, danger and downtime, and the city in all its sleaze and in all its glory. The Con Man is no exception.

If you want a book that will keep you up all night because you can't put it down, look no farther (further?).
Colin Mitchell
Aug 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
The 87th have a run of floaters that set Steve Carella on the track of a con man and murderer, while Arthur Brown is hunting for a trickster that takes smaller sums from easy marks but is annoy when $5 is taken from a working girl. This is a simple easy to read detective novel that moves at a good pace and is consumed in two evenings. The series is now taking on some shape that gets you looking for the next edition.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Another interesting cop read, with Carella and co.
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Con Man is the fourth book in the series by Ed McBain that features an ensemble cast of detectives in the 87th precinct. Detective Steve Carella has emerged as the central figure among the detectives, despite McBain’s interest in keeping the cast strictly ensemble.

In this episode, two major crimes are simultaneously pursued. The first, involving con artists, allows McBain to demonstrate his formidable literary skills. Not only does he describe the confidence games themselves, but he waxes al
Mark Harrison
Decent but not the best addition to this series. Carella deals with the murder of a young woman found in the river with a strange tattoo and the rest of the team deal with some confidence tricksters working the Precinct. Races along and, because of the familiarity with the characters after four books, it is a great comfort read. Unchallenging but worth a look.
Fred Svoboda
This is probably about when the series settles into its pattern, very heavy on realistic police procedure and on the lives of the detectives--with Carella as the first among equals. There's not a lot of "mystery" here, more the detectives tracking clue after clue after clue. Later books add a lot more interest in the crimes and criminals.
Countdown: Mid-20th Century North American Crime
BOOK 247 (of 250)
"Imagine your favorite 'Law and Order' cast solving fresh mysteries into infinity, with no re-runs, and you have some sense of McBain's grand, ongoing accomplishment," writes ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY on the back of the book cover/edition I read. I can only suppose they've read far into the series, as I'm just as book 4 and mystified by their popularity.
HOOK - 1 stars: This novel opens with a 2-page description of the average working p
Gerald Sinstadt
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Whether writing as Ed McBain or Evan Hunter, the author enjoyed great success for his inventive tales and fluent style. Time, though, has moved the police procedural genre a long way forward; the 87th Precinct series has period charm if you are kind or else feels simply dated.

Having been a devotee many years ago, I cannot really believe that even then The Con Man was McBain at his best. He has a trick of setting a theme - the city in the rain, for example here - and then knocking off an easy rif
Mary Ronan Drew
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ed McBain's early 87th Precinct novels take place in the 1950s and they are as interesting for the clothes and the food and the attitudes of the time as for the clever plots. Most important is our growing acquaintance with the detectives of the 87th and their old pals, informers, and girl friends and spouses. This story circles around the new marriage of one detective to a woman who is deaf and so cannot speak and who, despite what the difficulties she sometimes has communicating, can get a mess ...more
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first Ed McBain book that I've read but hopefully not the last because I loved the humour in it. The characters were quite interesting and the plot kept me curious but it's mostly the style that I really liked.
Nigel Bird
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘You want me to follow him?’ The cabbie watched Teddy nod, watched the door of Donaldson’s car slam shut, and then watched as the sedan pulled away from the kerb. The cabbie couldn’t resist the crack.
‘What happened, Lady?’ he asked. ‘That guy steal your voice?’

The Con Man was my latest visit to the 87th. I felt at home, as I increasingly do in these books, and very much enjoyed the read.

Essentially, we get to watch some of the con men of the city go about their business. Some are in it for the s
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McBain's early 87th Precinct novels do have a good amount of police procedure described, and it is interesting, but the characterization is also important. The procedural explanations are like a bit of textbook inserted into the plot. The characters who make the plot a story are a little dated, here fifty years later, but they work; they're funny, tragic, sad, brave, developed. Much like the ensemble television series of more recent times, a lot of people are involved, working together and somet ...more
Byron Washington
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it

I loved the pace and flow, but it was difficult to read the cavalier way the villains dispatched the victims. The method, revolting. Good story!!

Buy it, read it and enjoy!!👍🏾🔥👍🏾🔥👍🏾🔥👍🏾🔥
Ulrich Krieghund
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found a treasure trove of fifteen Ed McBain books at a used book store. I read that David Foster Wallace had an 87th Precinct novel called Fuzz as one of his favorite books, so I decided to give the series a try. The Con Man was the earliest in the series that I found, so I started with this one.

The protagonist for this book is the precinct itself and whatever detectives catch the case. The setting is The City. What city you ask? Whatever city has a river, a harbor and a seedy underbelly that
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back when I was in high school, I first met the characters of Ed McBain's 87th precinct. While I can't recall which books I read, I remember enjoying them quite a bit. A few years ago, when they started appearing on BARD, (the Braille and Audio Reading download site of the talking book program), I decided to try one of them, "Fat Ollie's Book" to see if it would hold my interest. To my complete delight, I enjoyed it just as much as those other long ago reads. At that time, I promised myself that ...more
Michael Laflamme
In The Con Man (the fourth book in the 87th precinct series, circa 1957) McBain delivers a standard entry into the series. There are two levels of con men on the loose; one, the relatively harmless kind who is just out to cheat a few unsuspecting marks out of a few dollars, and the other the most deadly kind, the kind out to swindle hapless victims out of everything they have and then leave them for dead.
McBain’s strengths lay in a couple of areas, both of which are present in this entry. The f
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"Ed McBain" is one of the pen names of American author and screenwriter Salvatore Albert Lombino (1926-2005), who legally adopted the name Evan Hunter in 1952.

While successful and well known as Evan Hunter, he was even better known as Ed McBain, a name he used for most of his crime fiction, beginning in 1956.

He also used the pen names John Abbott, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, Dean

Other books in the series

87th Precinct (1 - 10 of 55 books)
  • Cop Hater (87th Precinct, #1)
  • The Mugger (87th Precinct, #2)
  • The Pusher (87th Precinct, #3)
  • Killer's Choice (87th Precinct, #5)
  • Killer's Payoff (87th Precinct, #6)
  • Killer's Wedge (87th Precinct, #7)
  • Lady Killer (87th Precinct, #8)
  • 'Til Death (87th Precinct, #9)
  • King's Ransom (87th Precinct, #10)
  • Give the Boys a Great Big Hand (87th Precinct, #11)

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