MICHAEL Z. LEWIN – Night Cover. Berkley, reprint paperback, 1980. First published in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf, 1976. Also: Perennial Library P-721, paperback, 1984; Foul Play Press, softcover, 1995.

   False advertising!


   This was supposed to be an Albert Sampson mystery, or at least that’s what is said on the front cover of the paperback edition I just read. As you may have heard, Albert Samson is a private eye, and his reputation is that he is the cheapest in Indianapolis. I read and reported on another of his adventures a while ago, and while it doesn’t seem to me that I recall him giving out green stamps, I do remember enjoying it.

   Samson appears in all of perhaps seven pages of this one.

   In center court instead is Lt. Roy Powder, the cop in charge of the Indianapolis Night Shift for nearly nineteen years. His dominating, gruff personality has grown now until it overshadows most of his cases, two of which involve a school’s missing cashbox, a Maoist hippie, and a runaway girl.

   It’s not surprising that when they meet, which they do, Powder and the outspoken Samson do not get along very well.

   But Powder also uncovers a series of multi-murder crimes and undergoes a change-of-life that surprises even him. In other words, in case you haven’t realized it yet, this is not a private eye story at all. It’s a book with a gritty feel of real small-city police work, enhanced by the deductive instincts of a veteran cop, who has sharpened and tempered them by years of experience on the job.

   It’s a book I’m glad I read, but it sure wasn’t what I expected when I picked it off the shelf.

Rating:   B minus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 4, No. 4, July-August 1980 (very slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 07-21-13.   I apologize for not being able to find a cover image for the paperback to show you the blurb I was unhappy about. You’ll have to make do with the cover of the original hardcover edition, which was all I was able to come up with.