14 February 2019

Review #721: The Knife Slipped by Erle Stanley Gardner (Cool and Lam #1.5)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones.”

                                                                              ----Cheryl Hughes

Erle Stanley Gardner, an American lawyer and author, writing under the pen name of A.A. Fair for his sassy detective series, Cool and Lam. A hidden gem have been discovered after almost a decade with Gardner's book called, The Knife Slipped which was never published due to scandalous story line that revolves around two detective duo, one being the sassiest queen of her investigation agency and the other being her part time detective whom she loved to dominate with her orders, who find themselves muddled in a cheating man's deadly lies and his fateful murder.



At the time of his death, Erle Stanley Gardner was the best-selling American author of the 20th century, and world famous as the creator of crusading attorney Perry Mason. Gardner also created the hard-boiled detective team of Cool and Lam, stars of 29 novels published between 1939 and 1970—and one that’s never been published until now.

Lost for more than 75 years, THE KNIFE SLIPPED was meant to be the second book in the series but got shelved when Gardner’s publisher objected to (among other things) Bertha Cool’s tendency to "talk tough, swear, smoke cigarettes, and try to gyp people." But this tale of adultery and corruption, of double-crosses and triple identities —however shocking for 1939—shines today as a glorious present from the past, a return to the heyday of private eyes and shady dames, of powerful criminals, crooked cops, blazing dialogue, and delicious plot twists.

Donald Lam has never been cooler—not even when played by Frank Sinatra on the U.S. Steel Hour of Mystery in 1946. Bertha Cool has never been tougher. And Erle Stanley Gardner has never been better.

A mere job of spying on a cheating husband turns deadly and dangerous for not just the sassiest detective in town, Bertha Cool but also for her part-time employee, Donald, when the cheating husband is murdered by the supposedly suspect, Ruth Marr, who entangles herself romantically with Cool's agency's fella, Donald on his mission to find out about the cheating husband's mistress. Soon, Donald is caught in a crossroads where he has to choose between truth and narrative being crafted out by some politically powerful men and women of this town. Even Bertha with a smart mouth, too is caught in a seedy game of life and death. Who was this man whom Donald was following? And should he believe that his new lady love, Ruth is a complete saint?

A typical pulp fiction with its own limitations, but has a lot of eye-raising moments and dialogues that for the 40's readers was too hot to handle for. But after almost a decade, racy dialogues and graphic details of sex is easily digested and accepted by the readers. Not only that, during the 40's it was not at all cool that women leading ahead of men and dominating them, so that's that! So many factors, that pushed this intriguing as well as straight forward book out of publication. But, we readers are glad that we found this book, as this book, is an eye-opener on how a man thought that women can also dominate over men professionally.

The writing style of the author is really something laced with spicy dialogues and a money-minded heroine with a blunt mouth, infused with some raunchy sex scenes and promiscuous descriptions of a woman's body. No doubt the book questioned the editors even before it got a chance to see the light of publication. The characters are finely developed with with enough history and lights on their past that will help the readers to build a connection with them. The pace is really fast engulfed with loads of twists and turns here and there.

The mystery, on the other hand, is not so compelling enough to keep the readers hooked, but Bertha Cool really stole the damn show. And oh that, chemistry between Donald and Bertha is so palpable which will keep the readers frantically rooting for these two characters till the very end. Although not a page-turner but gripping enough to love this book for its feminist heroine. Feminism during the 40's was an alien concept, but somehow the author etched out a woman-centric detective novel in that era.

A scandal worthy novel filled with blood, murder, mayhem, sex and drama by our darling heroine, Bertha Cool.

Verdict: Worth a read!

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Bloomsbury India for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:

Erle Stanley Gardner was an American lawyer and author of detective stories who also published under the pseudonyms A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray, and Robert Parr.
Innovative and restless in his nature, he was bored by the routine of legal practice, the only part of which he enjoyed was trial work and the development of trial strategy. In his spare time, he began to write for pulp magazines, which also fostered the early careers of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. He created many different series characters for the pulps, including the ingenious Lester Leith, a "gentleman thief" in the tradition of Raffles, and Ken Corning, a crusading lawyer who was the archetype of his most successful creation, the fictional lawyer and crime-solver Perry Mason, about whom he wrote more than eighty novels. With the success of Perry Mason, he gradually reduced his contributions to the pulp magazines, eventually withdrawing from the medium entirely, except for non-fiction articles on travel, Western history, and forensic science.

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