LAWRENCE BLOCK – Death Pulls a Doublecross. Ed London #1. Gold Medal s1162, paperback original, 1961. Reprinted as Coward’s Kiss by Countryman Press, 1987; Carroll & Graf, paperback, 1996.

   The private eye in this case is a fellow by the name of Ed London, and while this is the only full length novel he appeared in, he did show up again later in three novelettes from the men’s magazines in the 1960s, stories that have since been collected as The Lost Cases of Ed London (Crippen & Landru, hardcover, 2001).

   Based in Manhattan, Ed London was a relatively high-scale operative in the true Playboy sort of image: a pipe smoker, fond of both Courvoisier cognac and Mozart, with fine books and Bokhara rugs in his apartment. He’s hired in this case by his sister’s husband to dump the body of his dead mistress in Central Park, a task that I don’t believe had ever come up before in the annals of PI fiction, or since. He found her shot to death in the apartment he kept for her, and he has no idea who might have done it.

   Task completed, with his brother-in-law in the clear, the case takes on unexpected added complexities when several interested parties call on London, each wanting a briefcase that should have been in the girl’s apartment. London doesn’t have it, but he can’t make anyone believe it. He has to play offense, he decides, rather than getting beat up again, and by professionals.

   Although not similar in most other ways, including the lack of comic overtones, the voice of Ed London, telling his own story, is remarkably the same as that of Bernie Rhodenbarr, Lawrence Block’s hero of all his later “Burglar” books. It’s a complicated tale, but the long explanation of how London knew what he knew and when he knew it seems to hang together.

   It’s too bad there was the only one novel with Ed London in it, but with all of Block’s other books and series, most of which I have yet to open, I don’t imagine there’s really any reason to complain.

      The Ed London short stories —

“The Naked and the Deadly” (1962, Man’s Magazine)
“Twin Call Girls”(1962, Man’s Magazine)
“Stag Party Girl” (February 1965, Man’s Magazine?)