by Marvin Lachman

HERBERT BREAN Traces of Brillhart

HERBERT BREAN – The Traces of Brillhart. Harper & Brothers, US, hardcover, 1960. Willliam Heinemann, UK, hc, 1961 (shown). Paperback reprints include: Collier, 1965; International Polygonics, 1988.

   I thought I was reading The MYSTERY FANcier again when I read Herbert Brean’s The Traces of Brillhart and found he had a detective whose first name is Bill and who is called “Deac.”

   This winner of the Bill Deeck sound-alike contest is Bill Deacon, a magazine journalist, like his creator. Brean’s first series character, Reynold Frame, had the same profession. He appeared in four undeservedly forgotten books, including Wilders Walk Away, one of the best first mysteries ever.

   The Traces of Brillhart is a good puzzle about a sleazy musician who keeps dying and returning to life (without the help of anything supernatural), keeping the reader off guard until the end. As Deacon says, “I felt surrounded by Brillhart. He was dead but he was everywhere.”

   The ending is not as good as it might be, leaving some unraveled threads. Still, this is a fine book, even if Deacon’s girl friend is called “Twit-Twit.” As Jack Paar used to say, “I kid you not.” (Her real name is Twickenham.)

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 13, No. 3, Summer 1992.