Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Puzzle in Petticoats: Review

Samuel M. Kootz was a New York City art dealer and the author of two mysteries: Puzzle in Paint (1943) and Puzzle in Petticoats (1944). Both star Jason Emory, a smaller-than-average private detective with an appreciation for the ladies and a roving eye. And this case provides him with more ladies than even he knows what to do with--his luscious but possessive secretary, Elsie; his sometime mistress, the "Duchess"; and the beautiful and rich Mary (who is determined to use the action version of her name to snage him into matrimony)--plus three gorgeous models at the Abe Lewin, Inc. Dress Manufacturer showroom. The models are most originally nicknamed--Red, Blackie, and Blondie (bet you can't guess why...). And all the ladies have an eye for Jason.

But Jason needs to keep his mind on his work, hard as that may be when his work requires contact with the models. Abe Lewin is in trouble. Last season, six lower-priced design houses came out with outfits from his line two days before his designs hit the market. Someone managed to either leak or steal the designs and Abe wants Jason to find out who before his Spring fashion line-up is ready for buyers. It quickly becomes obvious that there must be a traitor on board the Lewin payroll--but Abe refuses to believe it. He swears his employees--from his top-notch designer to his shop foreman to his models to his salesmen--are all true blue, but Jason knows that just can't be. Those designs got stolen somehow.

He has quite a job on his hands--juggling his lady friends while tracking down the leak in the company. And, of course, that requires questioning the models repeatedly and in-depth. But when Lewin's designer is killed in Jason's very own apartment his friend Captain Thomas of the police force gets involved and there will be another murder before Jason and the boys in blue track down the villain who's willing to kill to cover his corporate piracy.

This really is quite good. Snappy dialogue, witty comebacks, good natured ribbing between Emory and Thomas, and Jason's girl troubles all add spice to the proceedings. The mystery is well done up to a point. Koontz provides a major tip-off in the second half of the book that, if caught, points right to the culprit. But even knowing who did it well before the reveal did not spoil my enjoyment. This is a fun, fast-paced, breezy mystery from an author with an original voice. It's a pity that he wrote only two. I'll definitely have my eyes peeled for his first novel. ★★ and a half.

This fulfills the "Shadowy Figure" (there's actually two on the cover) category for the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.


fredamans said...

Sounds like it has just the right amount of snark for me. :-)

Misha Gerrick said...

Sounds like a fun read. :-)

Bev Hankins said...

It was a very fun (and sometimes snarky) read.