#1011: Double or Quits (1941) by A.A. Fair

Double or Quits

star filledstar filledstar filledstarsstars
Where the novel of detection delights in tropes so as to better lull you in and then sock you with an unexpected development, I’m starting to suspect that the private eye novel likes tropes so that you’re as comfortable as possible throughout without ever having to pay too close attention. You sign up for wealthy families, suspicious deaths, shady hangers-on, and plenty of business malfeasance, all the better to then unfurl a complex final chapter explanation which probably works as well as anything else, but, hey, at least it was entertaining while it lasted. And the world absolutely has a place for that kind of book, just don’t expect me to get too excited when I encounter one of them.

Continue reading

#984: Spill the Jackpot (1941) by A.A. Fair

Spill the Jackpot

star filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
Two days before her wedding to Philip Whitewell, Corla Burke upped and disappeared from her place of work, leaving behind all her personal property: “she simply vanished into thin air, and hasn’t been heard from since”.  Following a slender lead to Las Vegas, the groom-to-almost-was’s father Arthur hires the B. Cool Detective Agency to “find out what happened to Corla, why she disappeared, where she is now”…and so we’re off. And, of course, everything will go to plan for pint-sized investigator Donald Lam and he definitely won’t find himself pursued, beaten up, and accused of murder. No, wait — fry me for an oyster, that’s exactly what happens to him…good lord, however will he get out of this jam?

Continue reading

#948: The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe (1938) by Erle Stanley Gardner

Shoplifter's Shoe

star filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
When charged with republishing the work of someone as prolific as Erle Stanley Gardner, the chief difficulty must surely be where to begin and where — crucially — to stop. As a creator of memorable, compelling, easily-communicated, and complex protagonists the man perhaps has no equal, but as a plotter his loosey-goosey tendencies can sometimes get the better of him…a fact demonstrated no more clearly than in the wild variation represented by the eighty-six Perry Mason books published between 1933 and 1973. So the (thus-far) four titles in that series put out by the American Mystery Classics range make interesting reading.

Continue reading

#936: Turn on the Heat (1940) by A.A. Fair

Turn on the Heat

star filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
Twenty-one years ago, Mrs. Amelia Lintig started divorce proceedings against her husband, naming the practice nurse at his surgery as co-respondent.  Before the matter could be resolved in court, Dr. Lintig and his nurse and Mrs. Lintig all took a powder and left the sleepy township of Oakview behind them, apparently for good.  And now, someone wants to hire the B.L. Cool Detective Agency to track down Mrs. Lintig for reasons of their own…a mission complicated by the discovery that quite a few people have been looking for Mrs. Lintig in recent months. And then some of those people start dying.

Continue reading

#815: Gold Comes in Bricks (1940) by A.A. Fair

Gold Comes in Bricks

star filledstar filledstar filledstarsstars
I wasn’t expecting to get a review out today, but a sleepless night and the ice-cube-on-an-oil-slick-fast prose of Erle Stanley Gardner combined to make Gold Comes in Bricks (1940), the official third entry in the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam series, fly past in no time at all. No, you didn’t miss anything, I haven’t yet reviewed the official second entry Turn on the Heat (1940) — I still don’t own about half of this series, having disposed of my original copies yeeeeears ago — I’ll try to fill in the gaps in my collection and reintroduce chronology from now on. Did I mention my sleepless night? Distraction was needed, and Gardner always delivers in that regard.

Continue reading

#776: The Bigger They Come, a.k.a. Lam to the Slaughter (1939) by A.A. Fair

Bigger They Come

star filledstar filledstar filledstarsstars
A little while ago, on this very blog, it took me just under three years to work my way through the nine novels Erle Stanley Gardner wrote about D.A. Doug Selby.  At that rate, I shall be reading the 30 Bertha Cool and Donald Lam books published by Gardner under his A.A. Fair nom de plume for the next decade (and then the 88 Perry Mason books will see me well into retirement). Famously written by Gardner to prove that he could get a book published on merit alone, The Bigger They Come, a.k.a. Lam to the Slaughter (1939) finds a pair of great characters still unformed, and makes a good time out of a fun premise while not yet reaching the heights this series would.

Continue reading

#664: The D.A. Breaks an Egg (1949) by Erle Stanley Gardner

D.A. Breaks an Eggstar filledstar filledstar filledstar filledstars
Well, it’s taken me about twice as long as I thought it would, but we’re finally at the end of Doug Selby.  This is the ninth and final novel to feature Erle Stanley Gardner’s District Attorney of Madison County — a place where “they roll up the sidewalks and put them in mothballs at nine or ten o’clock at night” and that in the words of P.L. Paden, new owner of the Blade newspaper, “has been small time [and is] about to grow up”.  Certainly one change is in evidence here: events of the preceding novel carry over in a way that spoils one of the best surprises of that book, so make sure you’ve read The D.A. Takes a Chance (1948) before picking this up.

Continue reading