E. V. CUNNINGHAM – The Case of the Sliding Pool. Sgt. Masao Masuto #5. Delacorte, hardcover, 1981. Dell, paperback, 1983.

   On page one we are told that Masao Masuto is a Zen Buddhist. On page two, that he is a Nisei, which means that he was born in the US of Japanese parents. And on page three we learn that when called upon, he serves as half of the homicide squad of the Beverly Hills police force. He’s a complex character, and it shows.

   This is not his first case, and if, like me, you haven’t read any of his earlier ones, you’ll want to go back and get your hands on them. In the one at hand, heavy rains sweep away a huge concrete swimming pool, leaving behind the burial ground of what now is nothing more than a thirty-year-old skeleton.

   Faced with this challenge, Detective Sergeant Masuto immediately reconstructs the crime that must have taken place. Forthcoming are some of the most imaginative deductions since the days of Sherlock Holmes. (Or should that be Charlie Chan, whom Masuto is most often accused by his colleagues of emulating?)

   As it turns out, his theories, based on what seems to be little more than educated guesswork, not surprisingly do have some gas in them. Masuto, however, while not as overly modest in regard to his abilities as an Inspector Ghote, say, is also not too proud to change his working hypotheses as he goes.

   If it were not for the sudden, unexpected bombshell Cunningham explodes on the reader on page 152 [of the hardcover edition], wholly unanticipated and completely changing the direction of Masuto’s investigation, this would have had to have been ranked as one of the top detective novels of he year.

   The book is still terrifically readable, but you will feel like giving Cunningham a kick in the spot where he most deserves it for all the holes that are left behind when he’s done.

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 6, Nov/Dec 1981.


      The Sgt. Masao Masuto series —

Samantha. Morrow 1967.
The Case of the One-Penny Orange. Holt 1977.
The Case of the Russian Diplomat. Holt 1978.
The Case of the Poisoned Eclairs. Holt 1979.
The Case of the Sliding Pool. Delacorte 1981.
The Case of the Kidnapped Angel. Delacorte 1982.
The Case of the Murdered Mackenzie. Delacorte 1984.