Written in 1939 and published for the first time by the purveyors of pulp fiction, Hard Case Crime, in 2016, The Knife Slipped is the second book (in the Cool and Lam chronology) to feature Bertha Cool and Donald Lamb, two vastly different private detectives, both colorful and entertaining in their own way.
Earlier this year I read Try Anything Once, a book set much later in the series and commented that it didn’t stand the test of time well with the dialogue, plotting and overall feel of the book coming across dated. Same goes for The Knife Slipped, if not more-so.
As with Try Anything Once, the women in this book (excluding Bertha’s assistant and Bertha herself) throw themselves at the skinny and new-to-detective biz Lam, wooing over him and willing to put their life on hold to take orders, be treated like garbage and still go gaga. This is a dime store novel, the Cool and Lam books are not crime fiction in the modern day sense so some of this is to be expected, part and parcel of the genre but still, the dialogue was cringe worthy and the scenes where Lam is asserting his authority over the finer sex were not enjoyable. Cool referring to herself in the third person was a cause for distraction too – it just didn’t read well and I found myself eye-rolling more often than not when reading her passages of dialogue.
As I read more of these books a theme is emerging; each case starts of straight forward be it to get the low down on a cheating husband or provide cover for a cheating husband, or something else along those lines only to turn into a large scale conspiracy involving the shady government, crooked cops and ultimately murder. Personally, I think the strength lies with keeping it simple, the added layers of complexity only serve to confuse the reader as A. A. Fair has a tendency to put one too many puzzle pieces in play – as was the case here.
I’d rate The Knife Slipped 2.5/5. Worth getting if you’re a collector of the Hard Case Crime books.