Monday, April 3, 2017

Donald Lam Wrestles with a Malfunctioning Garage Door in this Classic Mystery from Erle Stanley Gardner

Whether in his Perry Mason series or in this Donald Lam/Bertha Cool series, Erle Stanley Gardner was fond of creating plots that revolved around extended wealthy families, living in large houses with chauffeurs and a couple of maids. Usually, there was a patriarch of some sort, often with a wife that he didn't relate to very well. There were almost always a couple of shirt-tail relatives living in the house, usually from the wife's side of the family, and usually, even though young and able-bodied, too damned lazy to go out, get a job and support themselves.

Such is the case in Double Or Quits, the sixth novel in the Lam/Cool series, published in 1941. In this case, the patriarch is a doctor who wants the firm to quietly investigate the disappearance of some jewels from the safe in his home study. A young woman who was employed in the home mysteriously disappeared at the same time the jewels went missing, and she's the obvious suspect. The plan is that Donald will go out to the doctor's home, posing as a family friend, and investigate the situation from the inside.

Of course, as anyone who's read two or three of these books knows full well, nothing is as it appears. Before long, there's a murder; there's a confidence game going on; the garage door is malfunctioning; someone is poisoning the Scotch, and things are getting downright confusing--for everyone except Donald Lam, of course.

Like a lot of the Perry Masons, most of the Lam/Cool books have plots that are so convoluted that they're impossible to follow. Better to not even try. It's a lot more fun just to go along for the ride and let Donald Lam ultimately sort everything out in the end.

This book is significant to the series because in the first five books, Donald Lam has only been Bertha Cool's employee. This is the book in which he forces Bertha to take him in as a partner and from now on, the firm will be known as Cool and Lam.

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