MAX ALLAN COLLINS – The Baby Blue Rip-Off. Mallory #1. Walker, hardcover, 1983. Tor, paperback, November 1987.

   It takes a while in this, Mallory’s first appearance, for details of who he is to be filled in. But as the story goes on, we learn that is is an ex-Viet Nam vet as well as a former cop, and is now beginning a career as a mystery writer. He’s also just moved back to the small home town of Port City, Iowa. (By the end of the book, though, his first name is still not known, at least by me.)

   The book begins as he describes how he’s been inveigled by a girl friend (who then almost immediately splits on him) into volunteering as a Meals on Wheels delivery person for the elderly. This may be a first (and only?) as an occupation for the leading character in a mystery novel.

   But what this does is to serve as a means for Mallory to get involved in his first case of actual murder. When he arrives at the home of one of the elderly women on his route, he finds a gang of thieves ransacking the place, and worse, he discovers the woman herself tied to a chair and very much dead.

   Besides taking her death as personal affront and deciding to find the ones responsible on his own, he also gets involved with an old flame from high school who now needs his help. One thing leads to another in that regard as well.

   Collins tells the story in a nice breezy tone that’s as comfortable as an old pair of shoes, with more than a bit of nostalgia mixed in. It’s also very well plotted — three solid reasons why I’m hooked and will go on to read the rest of series as soon as I can. There were four more. See below:

       The Mallory series —

1. The Baby Blue Rip-Off (1982)
2. No Cure for Death (1983)
3. Kill Your Darlings (1984)
4. A Shroud for Aquarius (1985)
5. Nice Weekend for a Murder (1986)