DICK STODGHILL “A Deceitful Way of Dying.” Novelette. Jack Eddy #4. First published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, September 1989, Collected in The Jack Eddy Stories, Volume 1 (JLT-Charatan Publications, paperback, 2006).

   Between 1979 and his death in 2009, long time newspaper columnist Dick Stodghill was also a prolific writer of short stories, producing several dozen of them over those years. His only series character was a fellow named Jack Eddy, a PI working for the Wellington National Detective Agency back around 1937 or so.

   Eddy was based in Akron OH and lived in the same boarding house as the narrator of his stories, Abraham “Bram” Geary. The latter is the crime reporter for one of the local newspapers, and even though he resents Eddy for going out with their landlady’s daughter, whom he has worshiped from afar, he also does not want to miss the scoops that working with Eddy always produce.

   In this, their fourth case together of maybe 18 or 19 in all, most appearing in AHMM, a man who has been presumed dead for several months, having run his car straight into an oncoming train, turns up dead in another town some 40 miles over. Eddy is hired by the man’s insurance company, who has already paid off once. They don’t want to pay off twice.

   It takes quite a bit of detective work to unravel the complicated plot the killer has set up — and I’m not sure I followed the explanation completely — but the solidly constructed atmosphere of several working class towns in Depression-era Ohio is pitch perfect, in a style strongly reminiscent of Black Mask of that very same era: only semi-hardboiled, with a dash of humor.