A heat wave has settled over The City (it's New York, but McBain never identifies it as such), bringing tempers to the flashpoint. An alarm clock wakes a cop for his midnight shift; when he descends into the soupy night, a shot fells him. The entire precinct mobilizes immediately - one of their own has been killed.
We encounter the familiar names of the Precinct's detectives (or some of them), most notably Steve Carella (here, Carelli), played by a young Robert Loggia; he's the bright cop engaged - not yet married - to the beautiful deaf-mute Teddy (Ellen Parker). His partner Maguire (Gerald O'Loughlin) has already tied the knot, but when he tries to keep cool in his undershorts to the whirr of a feeble fan, his wife (Shirley Ballard) brushes him off (`You're wet - oozing wet,' she sniffs).
When a second cop is gunned down in cold blood, attention turns to members of one of the gangs of young punks that were a fixture of post-war New York, but it's a dead end. Next, it's Maguire's turn to meet his very own dead end. Loggia, made indiscreet by too many `splashes' of Scotch to slake his thirst, tells his theories to a callow newspaper reporter and inadvertently puts Teddy in jeopardy....
Cop Hater gets the feel of the grimy streets and cramped apartments of a sweltering urban jungle just right (it also preserves the film debut of Jerry Orbach and very early appearances by Vincent Gardenia and Loggia). The puzzle of the murders may seem a little mechanical (it's a riff on Agatha Christie's The Alphabet Murders), and personalities don't emerge as vividly as we might like. But then this was early in the series, and McBain had only begun to sketch out the quirks of his recurring characters. McBain, of course, is the pseudonym of Evan Hunter (born Salvatore Lombino), who wrote the screenplays for Blackboard Jungle and The Birds. In Cop Hater, his anonymous City takes pride of place.