Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE RAT BEGAN TO GNAW THE ROPE by C.W. Grafton

THE RAT BEGAN TO GNAW THE ROPE

by C.W. Grafton

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-4642-1298-7
Publisher: Poisoned Pen

The Library of Congress’ series of reprints of classic crime novels kicks off with a 1943 case by mystery writer Sue Grafton's father that sends a very junior lawyer nosing around among the dirty secrets of the well-heeled family that dominates Harpersville, Kentucky, in both good ways and bad.

Why would William Jasper Harper, approaching Ruth McClure only 10 days after her husband’s death in a car crash, offer her four times the listed value of John McClure’s hundred shares of Harper Products Company’s stock? His generosity to his old employee, which comes with significant strings attached, smells funny to Ruth and even funnier to Gilmore Henry, the attorney she retains to look into the offer. Even before Gil's arrival in Harpersville, someone shoots out a tire of the car he’s driving, leaving him wondering whether the intended target was him or James Mead, the senior partner whose car he borrowed, who turns out to be representing Harper Products. Ruth quickly sours on Gil; her adopted brother, Tim, punches him out; the local sheriff offers to arrest him if he doesn’t leave town on the next train; and that’s all before William Jasper Harper gets himself shot to death. The suspects include a neighbor whose policies about selling eggs make no sense, the accountants who handled Harper’s books, and, of course, the deceased’s invalid wife and daughter, who now stand much closer to millionaire status. There’ll be more murders, more attempts on Gil’s life, and many more wisecracks. Editor Leslie S. Klinger’s conscientious period footnotes contrast amusingly with Grafton’s headlong pace.

Perfect for fans of A.A. Fair’s brash contemporaneous Bertha Cool/Donald Lam franchise.