GEORGE BAXT – A Parade of Cockeyed Creatures, or Did Someone Murder Our Wandering Boy? Random House, hardcover, 1967. International Polygonics, paperback; 1st printing, December 1986.

   This is the first of three appearances of the crime-solving team of New York City cop Max Van Larsen and Jewish high school teacher Sylvia Plotkin, not that the latter has much to do in this one, their having just met and all, but she in love with him at first sight, and by book’s end she is promising him a home-cooked meal, complete with chicken soup.

   He accepts, gladly. He is attracted too. There’s only one problem. He hates chicken soup.

   But, as I say, they have two more mysteries to solve together: “I!” Said the Demon (Random House, 1969) and Satan Is a Woman (IPL, 1987), so the chemistry they have together is obviously more than of the minor league variety.

   Max works for the Missing Persons Bureau, and Parade opens with a married couple coming in to have the police look for their son, who has been missing for five days. Why have they waited five days, Max asks. They equivocate. It is obvious that there are huge differences between the couple and their son, no to mention between husband and wife as well.

   Max is having his own problems. His wife and son have just died in a fiery automobile accident, and he wonders why he can’t find it within himself to mourn them. It’s that kind of book, brightly and wickedly humorous on the surface, but underneath, full of sorrow, and all the while mocking the foibles of the world, and the people in it — the “cockeyed creatures” of the title, most of them buoyantly over the top. Manhattan in the late 60s — the time of drugs, free love, and the peace movement — was the place to find characters such as the ones you will find in this book, and there are dozens of them.

   Another contradiction: the book is compulsively readable, but after a while the characters prove to be shallow and dull, and the mystery is weak. I probably won’t read another.