Ed McBain's older 87th Precinct novels all are back in print, but the novels by another important American pioneer of the police procedural, Hillary Waugh (1920-2008), are not. Even Waugh's Last Seen Wearing (1952), an acknowledged police procedural cornerstone, is out-of-print, not to mention Waugh's series of eleven novels about the investigative exploits of small-town Connecticut police chief Fred C. Fellows, which spanned the years from 1959 to 1968.
Waugh's 1966 mystery Pure Poison was the penultimate entry in the series. As is to be expected from Waugh, this novel offers readers a solid murder problem, realistically investigated.
So Police Chief Fellows and his men (his men indeed are all men) are presented with a classic poisoning problem. There are certain similarities to John Rhode's brilliant 1940s detective novel, Vegetable Duck, though Rhode's book has a more involved and ingenious problem.
Waugh offers readers a more streamlined puzzle, though it is not without interest. There is painstaking police investigation of what seems to be a motiveless crime (I was reminded here of Freeman Wills Crofts' The Hog's Back Mystery, 1933) and some good intuitive work by Chief Fellows near the end of the tale.
Basically Pure Poison struck me as an updated Golden Age "Humdrum" mystery, given a police procedural gloss. As the author of Masters of the "Humdrum" Mystery, I naturally find this sort of problem-focused novel congenial; yet I must admit that Pure Poison lacks the rapid pace and smooth narrative flow and character appeal of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct tales, which probably helps explain why Waugh's books are no longer in print and McBain's are (Waugh also stopped publishing fiction twenty years before his death, though he was only 68).
Still, if you are interested in a good police procedural problem novel, Pure Poison is a solid choice. It encouraged me to read more titles in this Waugh series.