Mon 20 Mar 2017
LESLEY EGAN – Motive in Shadow. Jesse Falkenstein #10. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1980. No US paperback edition.
As a series character, lawyer Jesse Falkenstein has been around for quite a while. He’s not as well-known to mystery fans as Perry Mason, say, at least not yet, and he probably never will be, but the reason I find both their kinds of adventures so enjoyable is undoubtedly because their crime-solving activities both so closely parallel that of a good private eye (L.A. scene, of course.)
Not for them the seat-numbing sort of drudgery that most legal work must actually be. Unlike the previously mentioned Mr. Mason, however, Falkenstein always seems to be doing his own legwork, and hardly ever does he have to show up n court at all.
In this case he’s hired to contest a will, that of an old woman who’s disinheriting her own son from his own business. And this is where the legwork comes in. Uprooting the past — a 50-year-old diary proves most illuminating — coming up with blackmail — but for what crime or minor offense against person or state? — and recreating the laughter and sadness of people and secrets long since buried.
As a mystery novel, this is a warmly nostalgic piece of writing, one surprisingly almost totally non-violent. As a puzzle in detection, here’s one that’s quite genuinely fascinating all the way through.
Bibliographic Notes: There were in all twelve recorded adventures of Jesse Falkenstein. Lesley Egan was but one of Elizabeth Linington’s pen names, others being Anne Blaisdell, Egan O’Neill and Dell Shannon. Another series character who appeared under the Egan byline was Vic Varallo, described on one website as “a small-town cop who moves to Glendale, California.” Varallo appeared in thirteen novels, one a crossover case with Falkenstein.