HENRY KANE – Who Killed Sweet Sue? Avon, paperback original, 1956. Signet D2575, paperback, January 1965. British title: Sweet Charlie (Boardman, hardcover, 1957).

   Here’s an example in which the British title makes a lot more sense than the US edition does. There are maybe a half dozen people named Charles, Charlie, Chas., Charlene, or C. Smith Applegate, Jr. and Sr., but no one named Sue. I can’t have missed her!

   The private eye in most of Henry Kane’s novel was a Manhattan-based fellow named Peter Chambers, and though he can mix well enough in sophisticated circles, he’s a guy as tough as they come. And it always amazes me that he’s a pretty good detective too, at least in his earlier cases. You have to keep a close eye on the clues in this one. The smallest detail may matter.

   He’s hired twice in the same day by two clients whose interests may overlap, but since the second one, a strip tease dancer who specialty is snakes as part of her act, doesn’t tell him why she’s hiring him, he takes her on also. (Twenty thousand dollars in cash helps make decisions like that very easy.)

   The earlier client is a well known British actor now working in the US named Charles Rexy, and yes, he’s known to the tabloids as Sexy Rexy, which is part of his problem. He’s being blackmailed (home movies have been taken) and the stripper may be part of it.

   The number of characters that Chambers comes across in the course of is investigation simply grows and grows. If it weren’t for a full page, one paragraph summary about halfway through, a veritable scorecard for all the players, a reader might throw up his or her hands in frustration and dismay. I know; I nearly did. But I’m glad I persevered. The second half of the book, story-wise, is well worth waiting for.

   Henry Kane also had a way with words, there’s no doubt about it, and there a certain rhythm that you as a reader have to adjust to, or you’re going to left out in the cold. Luckily for me, I have the beat.