An avid reader, Stephen's knowledge of Crime Fiction is fairly extensive, with The Golden Age is his greatest interest.
If like me, you know next to nothing about 1930's America and nothing at all about their newspaper businesses, it matters not one iota for the enjoyment of this fast paced detective story. This is ahighly entertaining read with an interesting plot, likeable characters and a feel that's more "over easy" than "hard-boiled" This is a book for giving you a pleasurable evening's reading on one of those cold dark nights to come.
The writing describes New York's 1930s hustle and bustle, the diners, the food stalls, night clubs and the neighbourhoods as you would imagine it to be. Knowing nothing about the New York that the book is set in I still felt I was there and was right at home there too.
Alexander Brass is a very succesful investigative journalist with a daily column in the New York World newspaper and a syndicated column across the country. He has an assistant, Morgan DeWitt and a secretary, Gloria's Adams to help him with his cases. It is through DeWitt that we view all the events. He is a wannabe writer who is struggling to start his book and while he is struggling he has a job with Mr Brass as his personal assistant.
Brass is described as a genius by DeWitt. He seems to have friends everywhere in New York from bank managers to detective agency owners to hotel managers and restaurant owners all willing to do favours in return for the help Brass has given them in the past. In the 1930s popular newspaper columnists were high profile celebrities. And boy, is Brass popular even the New York Police Department seems to respect him and his work.
The case Brass has to take on is one of catching the murderer of one of the New York World's own staff. A man whom Brass had asked to do a tailing job for him was found with his throat cut. Billy Fox had been asked to keep tabs on a fat man and to find out all he could about him. This fat man had asked Brass to keep highly comprising photographs of eight of New York's elite. He said the pictures were an insurance policy while he tried to find out who took them and why. The NYPD's Inspector Raab wants to know why Brass to decided to have the fat man tailed. Brass cannot reveal the photos without a major scandal occurring.
Brass and his colleagues now need to find the fat man, the answers to who took the photos and why in the hope that one or other will lead them to the killer. Meanwhile, the Police arrest a German émigré whose anti Nazi organisation rented the room where Billy Fox was found. The evidence at appears to be damning. Brass interviews the German and is convinced of his innocence. It looks like the German Nazi Government may be using the killing to try to discredit the anti Nazi group.
Then DeWitt gets a lead on the fat man only to find him dead in his own dark room. Tied up and tortured. It seems someone wants those photographs and will do anything to get them. Brass has to come clean with Raab about the photos. Raab realises the significance of them and accepts that they are best kept out of the Police case. It is lucky Brass has hidden them as only hours later three toughs ransack his office but are disturbed before they find what they were after. DeWitt is left with concussion from a knuckle dusterblow. Looks like the Brass team must look after their own safety as well as search for a killer.
Now they must investigate the eight leading figures who appear in the photos as other leads dry up, but this must be done very circumspectly so as not to arouse suspicion or bring further attacks on themselves. Would an invitation to a charity fund raiser where New York society meets give the team a clue.
An entertaining page turner this, with no pretensions to be anything other than an enjoyable and rewarding leisurely read. This is the type of book to put a smile on historical crime aficionados' faces.