TUCKER COE – Murder Among Children. Random House, hardcover, 1967. Signet P4030, paperback, 1969. Five Star, hardcover, 2000, as by Donald E. Westlake writing as Tucker Coe.

TUCKER COE Murder Among Children

   Disgraced, reclusive, ex-cop Mitch Tobin is asked by Robin Kennely, a cousin he didn’t know he had, to talk to a Cop who keeps hanging around a Coffee House she and her friends are trying to make a go of. They don’t know what he’s after, just that he haunts the place like a bad odor.

   Mitch refuses at first, but is talked into taking the case by his wife. The next day he goes to the Coffee House and finds Robin coming from her boyfriend’s upstairs apartment, covered in blood and holding a knife.

   Upstairs, the Police find Robin’s boyfriend and a black prostitute stabbed to death and arrest Robin for murder. But then another partner in the Coffee House gets killed in a hit-and-run accident, and Mitch reluctantly decides he must go after the real killer.

   Hardly a work of groundbreaking originality here, but I found the character of Mitch Tobin, with his psychosymbolic brick wall, fairly interesting. Another point: Coe (Donald Westlake) works a Religious Cult into the plot, and it got me wondering whether one might make a list of PI novels involving weird sects. They seem to be almost as basic a convention as the trenchcoat and fedora.

      Previously on this blog:

Don’t Lie to Me, by Tucker Coe.     [A 1001 Midnights review by Bill Pronzini.]