The Big Bad City Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Big Bad City

The Big Bad City by Ed McBain is a mystery novel of the 87 Precinct series.   The Big Bad City grabs the readers' interest immediately. The novel takes place in New York, the city that never sleeps. The city has mysteries developing and crimes occurring on a daily basis; the novel well represents New York and its police force. The two detectives, Steve Carella and Arthur Brown deal with their own issues throughout the novel, but Carella is the main detective. The Big Bad City's main mystery is the death of a young nun. There are two smaller mysteries that take place during the novel. One is about a robber who leaves cookies in every house that he robs, and the other is about a killer named Sonny Cole who killed the detective's father.
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Sister Mary Vincent, a young nun is found dead in a New York City park. Detectives, Steve Carella and Arthur Brown investigate the murder. They question her friends and family and then they come across some interesting information. The detectives discover this young woman had anything but a simple life. They soon learn that Sister Mary Vincent, or Katie, had plastic surgery which lead them to finding out that she was a singer in a rock band.
While the detectives try to solve the mystery of the death of Sister Mary Vincent, the mystery of The Cookie Boy is also in the process of being solved. This mysterious character is a professional thief. He is identified as the Cookie Boy because he leaves cookies in every house that he robs from, as if it is an exchange for their possessions. The Cookie Boy never carries a weapon, and throughout the novel we find him to be a very intelligent character; his robberies are planned out in great detail. Even with all of his experience, The Cookie Boy manages to find himself in a great scandal when he enters a house when people are home. Before he can make a quick exit, he gets a bloody nose and two people are dead. The police do not know how the two people were killed, but they find evidence of cookie crumbs and begin to suspect him as the murderer.
Carella, the main detective deals with a conflict throughout the novel. Carella's father was killed by a man named Sonny Cole; though he was not found guilty and he successfully escaped punishment. Sonny Cole still roams the world and little does Carella know that Sonny Cole has been stalking him. Carella wants justice to be served and Sonny Cole is waiting for the right moment to kill Carella, just as he killed Carella's father.

The review of this Book prepared by Jessica

This story begin in a police station where two policeman was working overtime where one policeman bring in grocery thief while the other bring nine basketball players. Suddenly a person from the prison draws a knife and treaten to kill another thief. There was a dead girl found sprawled near a park bench not seven blocks from the police station. Detectives Carella and Brown soon discover the girl has a most unusual past. Meanwhile, the late-nightnews tracks the exploits of The Cookie Boy, a professional thief who leaves his calling card--a box of chocolate chip cookies--at the scene of each score.
The review of this Book prepared by harveykee

There is actually one main plot and two subplots to this 87th Precinct series novel. The main story involves Steve Carella and Arthur Brown, in pursuit of a killer of a young nun in the city park. One subplot involves pursuit of a robber who leaves behind a box of cookies on his victims' bed. The third story involves the stalking of Carella by Sonny Cole, the man who killed Carella's father than got away with it through creative lawyering.
The review of this Book prepared by BethG

Chapter Analysis of The Big Bad City

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 60%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 20%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 10% Tone of story    -   very upbeat How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   1980's-1999 Spying/Terrorism Thriller    -   Yes What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   60% Kind of investigator    -   police procedural, American Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes General Crime (including known murderer)    -   Yes Who's the criminal enemy here?    -   finding a known killer

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   police/lawman Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Race    -   White/American


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast City?    -   Yes City:    -   New York    -   Dirty, dangerous (like New York)    -   dangerous Misc setting    -   prison

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Ed McBain Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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