I am sitting out back enjoying the cool weather. It is 68 degrees and glorious. I have my feet propped up on a small table in front of me, the better for Hercaloo to shred my sandals. Ah, well. They're old. It's hard to catch her in action because she knows when her picture is being taken and she stops what she's doing and poses.
I am listening to Beethoven's Piano Trio in C Minor Opus 1 No. 3, performed by the inestimable Isaac Stern on violin.
Up for Grabs by A.A. Fair
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The first A.A. Fair book I read I wasn't sure of. A.A. Fair is a pen name for Erle Stanley Gardner. His two heroes in his A.A. Fair books do not remotely resemble Perry Mason and his secretary Della Street and it left me unsure.
This is the second book by Fair and I'm sold. The two heroes are an unlikely couple who have nothing in common but their detective agency. Bertha Cool is a tough as nails woman whose face could stop a truck and whose mouth could shut up the truck driver. She runs a private detective agency and runs the business end of things. We rarely see her outside the office. She wants to solve crimes because she wants to make money. If solving the crime doesn't make money, she is not interested.
Donald Lam is the private detective who works with Bertha. He is young and light of stature but very, very charming, something that gets on Bertha's nerves, probably because she's not a sweet young thing and blind and deaf to his charms.
Lam is not in it for the money; he's in it to solve the crime. He is the brains behind the operation and the one who keeps them in business.
They're a good pair, because without Cool, there would be no income. Cool negotiates and keeps the books. She makes sure they get a fair price for their services and nobody is going to rip her off. She's too intimidating for that.
Without Lam, there would be no business because crimes would not get solved and there would be no clients.
The stories are told from Lam's first person narrator which is nice because he is charming. And witty and funny and slick and very clever. Hearing the story from Bertha's perspective would be brutal and filled with lots of salty language.
The plot: The head of an insurance company, a Mr. Breckinridge, comes to Cool and Lam with a proposition. To weed out false claims of injuries, Breckinridge has set up a phony contest where claimants "win" a two week vacation to a dude ranch in Arizona. With activities like swimming, golf and horse back riding, a very attractive hostess, the dude ranch is not a place to convalesce.
The trick is to catch the "injured" victims engaging in activities that belie their condition. Breckinridge is willing to pay a lot of money to the private detective agency if Lam would be willing to travel to Arizona and collect proof of false injury claims.
Lam is not particularly interested but Cool is not a woman to say "no" to, so off he goes.
Without giving anything away, things become complicated really fast. There are all sorts of shenanigans going on, including a murder. The naked plot is fine, but the really enjoyable part is watching Donald Lam in action as he puts the pieces together and slowly tightens his noose.
In conclusion? A great entertaining read.
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