Tag Archive: The Count of 9


Review by C.J. Bunce

If there is a better writer of pulp crime fiction in the long history of the genre than Erle Stanley Gardner, I don’t know who it is.  Yes, Mickey Spillane and Donald E. Westlake are in the running, too, but even if you push aside Gardner’s more than 60 novels featuring Perry Mason, you’re going to be challenged to find a better duo of detectives from the 1930s onward than Gardner’s Bertha Cool and Donald Lam.  Gardner wrote 29 novels published in his lifetime featuring the larger than life Bertha of the B. Cool Detective Agency and loyal and well-trod upon employee Lam, the narrator of the tales who lost his license to practice law and uses his smarts to keep money coming in to the agency.  Where the Hard Case Crime imprint is at its best is finding lost gems, and they have one in The Knife Slipped, written by Gardner and intended to be the duo’s second case, the publisher kicked it way back in 1939 because of Bertha’s brash, bombastic, and profane style.  Maybe that attitude just reflected the era of the day, but reading the novel now it’s clear Gardner was ahead of his time. 

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s the first time in print since 1968.  Erle Stanley Gardner‘s The Count of 9, sixty years after its first printing, the 18th novel featuring the crime detective agency Cool & Lam is back thanks to the Hard Case Crime imprint.  Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, penned a classic crime mystery of stolen rare artifacts and murder.  Featuring protagonist Donald Lam, the low key sleuth who ends up a punching bag by the bad guys as often as not, is joined by the trademark brief encounters of the brash, hard-boiled Bertha Cool, simply the best female detective in all of noir crime novels.

Cool tries to promote the agency, trying to get its name out there to establish a reputation for serving a higher brand of clientele.  She personally takes on the security for a wealthy world traveler, when her idea goes bust.  So why not bring in Lam and hand off the clean-up to him?  This time Lam is left to dodge two sultry art world dilettantes, both accused of the thefts, but only one will be his client.  When one of their husband’s is murdered, Lam must double back and solve both cases.  But first he must also dodge some hired thugs and worse, the local cops.

 

Will Donald Lam ever get a break?  Favorite noir secretary Elsie Brand is also back, but this time the office picks up a new file clerk, who can’t stop attracting the roaming eyes of the men who stop by the agency.  More Cool losing her Cool, more bruises for Lam.

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