Hard Case Crime has found a really lost book, this time an A. A. Fair novel by Erle Stanley Gardner. As Russell Atwood explains in his Afterword, the book was to be the second in the Cool and Lam series but was rejected by Morrow because Bertha Cool was too hard-boiled for them. She tended to "talk tough, swear, smoke cigarettes, and try to gyp people." Instead of of reworking the book, Gardner wrote an entirely different novel and put The Knife Slipped in the trunk. Now, 75 years later, we can read it for the first time.
The case appears to be a divorce job, but it soon develops into something much more complicated, as you'd expect from Gardner, though not as complicated as some of the later books in the series. Lam still has a lot to learn about the detective biz, and Bertha's an enthusiastic teacher. Atwood speculates that the series might have developed differently had this book been published. As it is, Lam makes some crucial errors along the way and gets the crap beaten out of him more than once, but things work out in the end.
A lot of the fun here isn't the case itself but in the characters, especially Bertha Cool. She's cheap (if you ever want someone to sell your old used car, get her on the job), but she's generous when she gets a big slice of the cake. This book's a lot of fun. Check it out.