William F. Deeck

BERT & DOLORES HITCHENS – F. O. B. Murder. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1955. Permabook M-3051, paperback, 1956.


   For those readers who enjoy police procedurals and others who just enjoy good books, this first novel by the combined Hitchens is recommended.

   David McKechnie and Collins (whose first name I missed, if it was ever mentioned) are investigators for an unnamed railroad. Collins is of mixed Irish and Mexican parentage. McKechnie is described as Black Irish, which, for those like me who might be baffled by the term — I went through a lot of books before I discovered its meaning — is an Irishman who has lost his Faith and is a solitary and brooding man. McKechnie, under that definition, would be more Grey Irish, in my opinion, but let it go.

   Collins specializes in stolen-or-missing-baggage cases. He is just beginning an investigation of the disappearance of two pieces of luggage belonging to a very strange woman when he discovers a terrified wetback locked In a reefer (refrigerator car) and near death.

   McKechnie meanwhile is checking on some whiskey stolen from a boxcar and then is drawn into the case of a man who everyone thought was a hobo who had died from, apparently, a fall from a boxcar. The death had been dismissed as an accident. The hobo, however, turns out to own half a uranium mine (backward reels the mind), and the FBI is also interesting itself in the incident. Another death, possibly in connection with the whiskey thefts, comes later.

   Not surprisingly, all of these cases tie in with each other, but the authors are skillful enough to make it sound reasonable. McKechnle and Collins work with the FBI and the Los Angeles police force and arrive at a satisfactory conclusion when the interconnectedness of the incidents has been pointed out to them by their supervisor. All they discuss with each other is horses and women.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 1, Winter 1988.

Bibliographic Note: McKechnie and Collins appeared in one other novel by the Hitchens, that being The Man Who Followed Women (Doubleday, 1959).