PAUL KRUGER – A Bullet for a Blonde. Vince Latimer #1. Dell First Edition A160; paperback original; 1st printing, June 1958.

   Although author Paul Kruger has ten entries in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV, this is the only one of them in which PI Vince Latimer is the detective of record. The setting is unknown. Al lists it as the “US West,” and that’s my best guess, too.

   There’s no particular reason why Latimer couldn’t have made a second appearance. Sometimes the nature of a case makes it all but certain it’s one and done, but that’s not at all true here. It’s just an ordinary PI novel, with most if not all of the standard ingredients, well written but for the most part easily forgotten once you’re done.

   As the title suggests, the victim is a blonde, one who shows up drunk on Latimer’s office doorstep one night, telling him someone is going to kill her. It sounds like a vodka dream to him, so he bundles her into his car and drops her off at her home. Next day he gets a call from her sister. She wants to hire Latimer. She thinks her sister is having an affair with her husband. Latimer goes to check out the trysting place, and there he finds the girl dead.

   The only aspect of the mystery that raises it above standard fare is the ending, which is a doozie. Latimer builds a solid case against two people before settling on a third, which is the correct one. It isn’t easy writing a detective novel in which this happens. The drawback being that it takes lots and lots of last chapter explanation to untangle all of the threads of the plot. I didn’t mind, but your standard PI novel reader might.

   One other thing. “Paul Kruger” was in reality Roberta Elizabeth Sebenthall, 1917-1979, and if it means anything to you, you could have fooled me. The writing is told in first person, with all of the conventional leering at women and all of their curves in the right places, and while the one bedroom scene stays outside the bedroom, it does happen, as does one other that’s even more offstage, but when you think about it later, you have to realize that… well, I’ll have to be content in saying that men do not have a monopoly on PI novels in which hardboiledness (if that’s a word) comes into play in one fashion or another.