A. A. FAIR – Double or Quits. Donald Lam & Bertha Cool #5. Morrow, hardcover, 1941. Dell #160, mapback edition, 1947. Reprinted many times since.

   If a man working in a garage on his car’s engine is later found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, the insurance would have to pay off double on his accidental death, right? Erle Stanley Gardner, writing under his A. A. Fair pen name, shows us how the wording of all life insurance policies says that the answer is no. No double indemnity, unless Donald Lam can come up with something.

   Unfortunately, this bit of legal expertise is the high point of this rather complicated affair involving a whole household of suspects and more horsing around than clue gathering. Lam incidentally weasels Berth Cool into giving him a partnership in their detective agency, but in general he gets himself out too far ahead of the evidence. I’d say he bungles the case; at any rate he doesn’t exactly shine.

Rating: C minus.

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 2, March 1977.