KIERAN SHEA “The Lifeguard Method.” Charlie Byrne #1. First published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, August 2009. Probably never collected or reprinted.

   This is both Kieran Shea’s first published story and (of course) the first recorded case of PI Charlie Byrne. Although most of the story takes place in a room at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, Byrne seems to be permanently based in Philadelphia. Most of his work is for hotshot litigator there, having saved his son Andy from drowning while working as a lifeguard at a beach when the boy was only six.

   Andy is now in his early 20s and is foolishly trying to scam his father out of fifty grand by faking his own kidnapping. Byrne is having none of it, but makes the initial mistake of taking everything for granted, a mistake he doesn’t make twice.

   In her introduction to the story, the editor points out that it was difficult to decide whether to put this tale in their Department of First Stories, or in their “Black Mask” section. They chose the latter, and it was a good choice. Without being able to say more, this is one of the most hard-boiled stories I’ve read in a long time.

   It was also stated in the introduction that the author was working on a novel involving Charlie Byrne, but if so, it may have never been completed. There was one more appearance for this otherwise one-shot PI, that being “Shift Work,” which was serialized in three parts in an ezine titled Crime Factory, March, May & July 2010.