Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Donald Lam and Bertha Cool Take a Gamble in Vegas

The fourth novel to feature Los Angeles P.I. Donald Lam and his boss, Bertha Cool, takes place in 1941. Donald has just picked up Bertha from a sanitarium in San Francisco where she has been treated for various ailments. In the process, she has shed over a hundred pounds and is down to a hundred and sixty. The doctor has stressed to both Bertha and Donald that it is essential that she keep off the weight that she has lost, but Bertha, Donald and anyone who reads this series all know what the chances of that are.

Flying back to L.A., Donald and Bertha stop off in Las Vegas to meet with a potential client. (Times are still so innocent that you can get to the airport ten minutes before the plane is scheduled to depart. Once seated, you can still get off the plane two minutes before flight time to get a candy bar in the terminal, and still be back in your seat with time to spare. But I digress...)

The client, who is also from L.A., has a problem. His son's fiancee has abruptly disappeared and the son is heartbroken. The young woman's trail leads to Las Vegas. The father, a big-shot businessman, was not all that knocked about the forthcoming nuptials, but he loves his son. He wants Bertha and Donald to find the missing fiancee; in the alternative, he hopes they can find some proof that she left of her own volition, which will perhaps help repair the poor boy's broken heart.

All of the action in the book takes place in Vegas and Reno. As is always the case with these books, the plot is pretty convoluted and doesn't make much sense in the harsh light of day. But it's always fun to watch Lam at work and to monitor his relationship with Bertha. Readers who enjoy spending time in Las Vegas or Reno in the present day, should enjoy the descriptions of the two cities from seventy-five years ago, well before the age of Siegfried and Roy and Circqe du soleil.

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