THE BLONDE IN LOWER SIX by Erie Stanley Gardner


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A minimally edited sequel to Dead Men's Letters (p. 535): a short novel and three more stories (originally from Black Mask and Argosy) about Ed Jenkins, the Phantom Crook who's blamed for every unsolved crime in California. The three stories, dating from 1927-28, pick up Ed's saga where the last story of Dead Men's Letters had left off: dogged by crooked policemen and politicians determined to flush him from his lair in San Francisco's Chinatown by blackmailing or otherwise threatening Helen Chadwick, the society jane he cherishes a hopeless passion for. The pattern is the same--cops get the word that Ed's holed up somewhere, put the squeeze on Helen (or, later, on demi-flapper Ngat T'oy, daughter of Chinatown sage Soo Hoo Duck), and get trapped into killing each other by the non-gun-toting Ed. But the novel, in which Ed doubles as quarry and detective (who killed the blonde in the train en route to L.A.? in fact, who was the blonde in lower six, and how is her death tied in to a counterespionage plot against Japan in 1943?), makes this volume much more interesting than its predecessor, because it shows how, even when Gardner doesn't really care whodunit, his plotting gets more inventive when he has a few unsolved murders to dangle in front of Ed and give him something to do besides getting chased around. Well below the level of Gardner's best work--but the title story shows fascinating glimpses of the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool series he did so much better.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1990
Publisher: Carroll & Graf