PETER DUNCAN – Sweet Cheat. Dell First Edition A182, paperback original; 1st printing, 1959. Cover art by Darcy (Ernest Chiriacka).

   The cover artist was worth mentioning, I thought, since it was his work that caught my eye and had me pick this off the shelf to read way ahead of several hundred other books. (What do you think? Wouldn’t you?) It turned out to be a good choice, too. I enjoyed the book as much as I did the fetching young lady on the cover.

   Buck Peters, who tells the story, is both the Chief of Police in his home town and a deacon in the local church, so he has something of a reputation to maintain with his Mama and the other elderly local ladies, which makes solving the town’s latest (and maybe the first in the long time) a task something like juggling three balls in the air blindfolded.

   Dead is a woman known as the town’s tramp, although that’s by reputation only. As much as she teased the menfolk’s healthy libidos, Buck knows that none of them had ever even made it to first base with her. What was the motive, then? Buck has a feeling that it was only frustration.

   What complicates everything — and thus takes up most of the story — is that the chief suspect is Kip Belton, the police commissioner himself, a man whose wife Buck has been diddling with (his word) since high school. Belton’s alibi is that he was with his wife at the time, but he was not. She was with Buck, doing what long-time lovers do whenever they can, and in the Beltons’ own back yard.

    What a predicament! Luckily Buck has similar goods on all the other men in town, and when it’s necessary, he’s not at all leery about making what he knows be known — much to the delight of Delbert, his deputy , who is a little sharper than Barney Fife, but not by a whole lot.

   It all works out in the end, and I was sorry the end came so soon. Highly recommended, if you happen to come across a copy — and if you go looking, it’s not a book that’s very hard to find.

   As for Peter Duncan, whose real name was Butler Markham Atkinson Jr., he has one other mystery novel in Hubin, a Gold Medal original entitled The Telltale Tart (1961). That one I’m going have to go looking for myself.