LOUIS TRIMBLE – The Surfside Caper. Ace Double D-505, paperback original; 1st printing, 1961. Published back-to-back with In a Vanishing Room, by Robert Colby (reviewed here ).

   To be absolutely honest, Larry Flynn is not a private eye. He’s really a trouble-shooter for a worldwide hotel chain, which ordinarily would be close enough. I may be stretching the point, though, since in this case, he’s working on his own time. Does it matter, though? He talks, thinks and acts like a PI, and that’s all that really counts.

   As it turned out, The Surfside Caper was the only book he ever appeared in. Starting as far back as 1941 with a book from Phoenix Press, Trimble wrote perhaps two dozen crime and detective novels, most of them along the same lines as this one, and in those books he made use of only one series character, an insurance investigator named Martin Zane (Cargo for the Styx, Ace, 1959, and The Dead and the Deadly, Ace, 1963). After 1963 he turned to writing science fiction and westerns only.

   This one begins with Flynn being nearly run off the road and down a steep hillside while on his way to the Surfside Lodge, somewhere along the California coast. It’s the other car, however, that goes off the road, and the driver is badly injured. Flynn goes to get help, and before he knows it, he’s accused of two murders and up to his eyeballs in a plot that he knows nothing about.

   The owner of the luxury resort he was headed for is the widow of a good friend of Flynn’s, now deceased, and when she asked him for his help, he came running. Now she acts as though he’s working for someone else, and what’s more, there are plenty of others involved who that someone else might be.

   Trimble keeps the story going by stirring up the plot and the players in it by slight of hand only, keeping Flynn pretty much in the dark most of the way. Lots of secrets and misunderstandings, in other words, with hints of perverse activities that don’t particularly add much to the overall mix.

   To sum it up briefly, competent, but not particularly recommended.