BOOKS: Juggling Live Electric Eels

Ed McBain can do anything, as his circus mystery shows

Probably it works this way: after years of riding the Shetland pony across the | slack wire above the center ring, you begin to wonder if you could do it blindfolded. Sure, easy. But if the pony were blindfolded? If you were both blindfolded and you were juggling live electric eels? Something like this may have gone through Ed McBain's mind as this master began There Was a Little Girl (Warner; 323 pages; $21.95), his 80th or maybe 160th crime novel. Could he, for instance, just to make things interesting, write a thriller in which his hero gets shot on the...

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