The "crooked man" of the title is Clay Burgess, a good cop in a corrupt town, who goes along to get along and soon finds himself liking the money that comes with being bent. Eventually he's as bad as anybody, but then his daughter gets polio. He steals a bundle and disappears, but it's too late for his daughter. I'm not spoiling anything here, by the way. We learn all this in the first chapter, which sets up a flashback in which we find out all about the decline and fall of Clay Burgess. Okay, maybe not all about him, but nobody who reads this blog is going to be surprised by the big reveal at the end. I doubt that Keene expected anyone to be. He does throw a nice curve in the ending, though. A little sentimental? Sure. But I don't mind.
Even if you know where things are going, Keene's propulsive writing carries the day. You keep right on reading to find out about Burgess and what drives him and how low he's going to go. At 144 pages, the perfect Gold Medal length, the story covers a heck of a lot of ground, and it's just right for a few hours of good reading.