cover image Shills Can’t Cash Chips

Shills Can’t Cash Chips

Erle Stanley Gardner. Hard Case Crime, $10.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-78565-636-1

A car accident in Colinda, Calif., drives this appealing Cool and Lam caper from Gardner (1889–1970), first published in 1961. The chunky Berta Cool, the head of the Cool Detective Agency, believes she’s got a line on some respectable detective work that’s easier and more lucrative than her agency’s usual dangerous jobs. An insurance company wants the agency to look into the sudden disappearance of Vivian Deshler, who was involved in the accident and was considering making a claim. The diminutive Donald Lam, Cool’s employee, drives to Colinda, where he encounters a bevy of short-skirted babes and suspicious activity in the sales offices of a subdivision development. Lam spends a lot of time driving around, until a local cop tries to pin a murder on him, and then he must perform the obligatory clearing of his name. Overall, this is a quieter case than usual for Lam. Instead of getting the snot beaten out of him, he’s only knocked out once by a clean punch. This is just the ticket for fans of retro crime fiction. (June)