Friday, September 20, 2019

Bats Fly At Dusk by A. A. Fair (1942)

Major characters:

  • Rodney Kosling - a blind street vendor
  • Josephine Dell - secretary to Marlow Milburs, accident victim
  • Harlow Milburs - deceased, historical author
  • Christopher Milburs - his nephew, a Vermont farmer
  • Nettie Cranning - Harlow's housekeeper
  • Eva Hanberry - Nettie's daughter
  • Paul Hanberry - Eva's husband
  • Myrna Jackson - Josephine's roommate
  • Jerry Bollman - a witness and wheeler-dealer
  • Bertha Cool - detective
  • Donald Lam - detective

Locale: Los Angeles, CA

Synopsis: Blind street vendor Rodney Kosling has struck up an acquaintance with an anonymous woman, who passes by him each day. Then she is struck by a car - but not seriously injured - and seems to disappear. Kosling hires Bertha Cool to locate her. Bertha finds the woman is secretary Josephine Dell, and is no longer passing down the street as her employer, Harlow Milburs, has died; ending her job in that area.

A witness to the accidenty, Jerry Bollman, makes overtures to Bertha that he has information which can reap a big insurance settlement from the accident.

Christopher Milburs, a Vermont farmer and only relative of the late Harlow, comes to town to handle his estate. Things are fishy, a suspect will is found and it could be a forgery perpetrated by housekeeper Nettie Cranning and her relatives.

Bertha goes to see Rodney Kosling and enters his home - which has no lights, he doesn't need them. She finds his pet bat flying around and the body of Jerry Bollman on the floor.

Bertha's partner, Donald Lam, is in the Navy but contributes to the investigation by frequent telegrams.

Review: This is one of the early Cool/Lam books and is a nice tight, cohesive read. There is a small cast of characters, and few of the red herrings, complications, and random walk-on walk-off cameos common in the later books. Bertha works hand in hand with the police, not as an adversary. The book has several unique aspects: the well developed character of the blind man and his explanations of how he manages his life, the interplay with the bat, and the appearance of Donald Lam only by telegram.

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