|the edition I wish I had|
Bertha Cool, head of the agency, is eager to let Donald Lam earn the money. But Donald smells something fishy. When earning the bonus proves to be just a little too easy (Donald knows he's good...but not that good), he knows he was right. And when he decides to dig deeper to find out just why Billings wanted Cool & Lam to "discover" an alibi that has obviously been pre-arranged, he finds himself on the wrong side of law, on the wrong side of the powerful Billings family, and on the wrong side of Bertha Cool. One murder, one hit-and-run accident, one run-in with the mob, and one gold mine later, Lam has put the pieces together and is able to present Bertha with a bonus that even she could never have dreamed of....
Top of the Heap is the thirteenth entry in the series by A. A. Fair (aka Erle Stanley Gardner, better known for his Perry Mason books). In many ways it follows what seems to be the typical Cool and Lam pattern--Bertha wants money and lots of it; client offers said money; Donald gets to do all the work; Bertha waits to scoop up the cash and share it out. I don't think these are books that I would want to read too close together. The one bonus here is that Donald really gets to show Bertha what he can do. When she decides that he has screwed up the case and cost them their retainer, he sets off on his own to get to the bottom of things and does so in style. It's absolutely worth it to see him stroll into the office (through a door where Bertha has scraped his name off the glass) and present her with the bountiful fruits of his labor. It's amazing how fast her fire-breathing changes to honey-toned appreciation. Enough dollar signs will do that, I guess.
Overall, a decent read in the pulpy private eye world. I particularly like Donald--he's quick on feet, quick-witted, and quick with a snappy come-back. ★★★
This fulfills the "Detective Team" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.