EDWARD D. HOCH “The Theft from the Onyx Pool.” Nick Velvet #2. First published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, June 1967. Collected in The Spy and the Thief (Davis, digest-sized paperback; 1st printing, December 1971 (Ellery Queen Presents #3) and The Thefts of Nick Velvet (Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1978.)

   The charm of the Nick Velvet stories to me is how clever they are, and in fact, they have to be. Not only does Nick have to figure out how to steal the essentially valueless objects he’s hired to obtain, but he also has to work out why he was hired to steal them in the first place. (In this story originally published in 1967, his fee is $20,000.)

   In this case Nick is hired by a young woman of some beauty and obvious social standing to steal the water from a famous writer’s pool. She does not want the pool drained. She wants him to steal the water. That’s the job. Nick, being am inquisitive fellow, once again needs to know why.

   Two detective stories in one, both cleverly worked out to the finest detail. How did Hoch do it, over and over again, and this time in only eleven pages?