Thursday, September 04, 2008
Book Report: The April Robin Murders by Craig Rice and Ed McBain (1958)
This book comes from early in McBain's career, and it's not even really a McBain book. Instead, it's McBain finishing a book started by another author. However, unlike Robert B. Parker taking over a Raymond Chandler novel, McBain's mannerisms and stock characterizations don't appear. Maybe it's too early in his career and he didn't develop the stock. That said, this is a Craig Rice book that Ed McBain worked on.

It's a little pulpy bit about two New York street photographers (who have had other capers in previous books) who decide to move to Hollywood to get rich and famous. Bingo, the brains of the outfit, almost thinks he has control of the situations and is atop things, but he's not. Handsome, the athletic and good-looking part of the duo, seems to follow Bingo's every word, but he has a tendency to go above and beyond his instructions in a beneficial way. Ergo, the characters have a sort of double-effect to them. On one hand, they seem buffoonish, but might only seem buffoonish on the surface.

In a series of events, they're sold a mansion by a con man whose receipt carries the actual signature of the presumed murdered former owner. Then, the housekeeper and caretaker is actually killed in the house. As the duo run through their cash reserves hiring attorneys and whatnot, while trying to figure out who killed the previous owner, who killed the housekeeper, and whatever happened to April Robin, the starlet who first owned the house.

An amusing little book. I enjoyed it and wouldn't mind reading the straight-up Craig Rice books in the series.

Books mentioned in this review:

Hunter said in an interview with me (for my book Who Was That Lady?) that he was not sure where he'd started and Rice had stopped, but he believed Rice had written approximately 2/3 of the book.

Rice had not left any notes or outline to show him whodunit.

I'd suggest starting with The Corpse Steps Out or My Kingdom for a Hearse.

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