cover image The Knife Slipped

The Knife Slipped

Erle Stanley Gardner. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-78329-927-0

A gumshoe assigned to work a simple divorce case ends up accused of murder in this fast, often funny crime novel, written in 1939 but not published until now. On the run from the law, the detective is the diminutive but tough Donald Lam, who works for the enormous Bertha Cool (“She was a wise baby, was Bertha Cool”) in Yucca City in what may be California. Constantly counting odds and ways to play them, Bertha figures she can take a cut out of the case of police corruption that Lam has tumbled to, if the knife doesn’t slip—and if her operative doesn’t fall for the dame who makes for their best suspect. The prolific Gardner published 29 novels about Cool and Lam (and more than 80 featuring lawyer Perry Mason). As Russell Atwood (Losers Live Longer) explains in his afterword, this case was to have been the second in the series, but when the publisher nixed it, Gardner just wrote 27 more. For fans of classic hard-boiled whodunits, this is a time machine back to an exuberant era of snappy patter, stakeouts, and double-crosses. (Dec.)