cover image The Count of 9

The Count of 9

Erle Stanley Gardner. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-78565-634-7

In 1958, Gardner, the prolific creator of the Perry Mason legal thrillers, published this smooth and easy entry in his Cool and Lam detective series, now reissued with a classic—but brand new—cover by legendary paperback artist Robert McGinnis. Globe-trotting adventurer Dean Crockett hires Bertha Cool (“a hundred and sixty-five pounds of potatoes in a sack”) to do security for a party in his penthouse. But then Crockett is found dead inside a locked room, the apparent victim of darts from a blowgun, and two small jade idols are missing. Bertha mostly sits this one out, bringing in her diminutive partner, Donald Lam, to do the heavy sleuthing. For Lam, think young skinny Frank Sinatra, who was perfectly cast for the role in a 1946 radio adaptation of 1940’s Turn on the Heat. As usual, the little gumshoe gets the snot pounded out of him by towering thugs (think Ernest Borgnine). Lam has his brain to rely on, however, and comes up with solutions to the locked-room and other puzzles. Undemanding crime readers will be content. (Oct.)