cover image Turn on the Heat

Turn on the Heat

Erle Stanley Gardner. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-78565

Out of print for half a century, this competent, snappy novel became the initial entry in the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam detective series in 1940, after the publisher bounced The Knife Slipped, which Hard Case brought into print for the first time in 2016, and published this one instead. Writing under the pen name A.A. Fair, the prolific creator of the Perry Mason legal thrillers wrote 30 novels in which the rotund and conniving Cool sends the diminutive but brassy Lam out to probe and investigate, as well as take the beatings that ensue. In this outing, a Mr. Smith hires Cool’s firm to find a woman who’s been missing for 21 years, without mentioning he’s running for political office. Soon enough Lam finds a corrupt cop on his trail, and of course bodies begin to pile up. Gardner amuses with the authentic period scene and convoluted plot, but he’s not writing anything ambitious like The Maltese Falcon or Murder on the Orient Express—this is strictly bread-and-butter detection for mystery readers. (Nov.)