From the creator of private eye Dan Fortune comes a miscellany of 17 stories, all but one published between 1962 and 1973. Many describe flawed criminal plots whose single twists rapidly become predictable. The bank officer’s scheme to leave his employer and his wife holding the bag in “Death, My Love” and the solid citizens’ set-ups of crooked patsies in “Silent Partner” and “The Choice” are just waiting to backfire. Collins’s cops are easy to read whether they’re going it on their own, like Syracuse detective Mack Forbes in “Hard Cop,” or working, amusingly laid-back, within the system, like fat patrolman Emil Berger in “Harness Bull.” Other detective stories are more varied. The impossible-crime scenario in “The Bizarre Case Expert” is labored, and the studied anticlimaxes in “Nobody Frames Big Sam” and “Hot Night Homicide” modish rather than pointed, but the murder of a burglar in “Occupational Hazard” shows the author at his most ingenious. When he turns to espionage, Collins works within the limits of early le Carré. His favorite sort of hero—the stoic agent who knows he’s going to be betrayed but who goes ahead anyway—turns up in two remarkably similar stories, “Success of a Mission” and “Clay Pigeon.” When the stoic type takes an encore in the only recent story here, the 1999 “A Part of History,” the perspective on an anti-Nazi assassination plot is longer and richer, but the characters and prose are as unchanged as if preserved in amber.
Solid journeyman work, not dated but not especially memorable either.