GEORGE BAGBY – Murder’s Little Helper. Inspector Schmidt #30. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1963. Pocket Cardinal 35007, paperback, 1964; Paperback Library 65-838, paperback, April 1972.

   If my count is correct, this is the 30th in the series of novels that Aaron Marc Stein wrote about NYPD Inspector Schmidt and his “Watson” George Bagby, all also written as by Bagby. The latter is friends enough with Schmitty, as he calls him, to be allowed to hang around with him on his cases. Mostly he keeps quiet and lets the inspector do all the talking, but every once in a while he pipes in with a question or observation or two.

   In Murder’s Little Helper it all begins with a young pregnant woman’s death by drowning in the river, presumably by suicide, but that’s a presumption that doesn’t last long. It turns out that the young lady was the kind of young lady who had lots of very close gentlemen friends, and she wasn’t averse to doing a bit of blackmailing on the side after they were no longer very close.

   Although the Bagby books were popular in their day, they wouldn’t register more than a two out of ten in how they’d go over with mystery fans today. No action, no mutilated bodies, no psychopathic serial killers, just a lot of on the ground detective work – which means a lot of talking, and more talking. Looking at the case over and over again from all directions, twisting it this way and that, left and right and inside out before coming back to the beginning again.

   And talking at length with anyone involved: next door neighbors, the janitor in the building in which the the victim lived, and most importantly, with the men (and their wives) who were paying her money to live on until her dream man was free to marry her. There is a section of some forty pages devoted to this last group of four in which by the time they are done, even George and Martha would sympathize with them.

   This particular case is one that’s not for everyone, and personally I wouldn’t call this one anywhere above average, but I enjoy Stein’s way with words as the author, and once finished, I’m ready for another.