FREDRIC BROWN – His Name Was Death. Dutton, hardcover, 1954. Bantam #1436, paperback, 1956. Black Lizard, paperback, 1987/1991.

   Fredric Brown at the very top of his form: tricky, entertaining, and compulsively readable.

   This is ostensibly the story of Darius Conn, successful wife-killer and novice counterfeiter, and his attempt to track down some bogus bills that have gone astray. Having already gotten away with the murder of his wife, Conn sees no problem with committing a few more perfect crimes to cover his latest felony, so he tracks each bogus bills to whoever’s holding it, and… and Death becomes a fast-moving and sardonic tale of multiple murders.

   But that’s only on the surface. The genius of His Name Was Death is that the reader thinks he’s reading one story, when Brown is actually telling a completely different tale. And when the hidden story surfaces, it rears its surprising head with all the fatalistic power of a Greek Tragedy.

   There’s a wonderful moment toward the end of the book when Conn’s crime spree seems to be heading irreversibly towards another murder: The reader can see and feel that there are only a few pages left, and the reader knows this story will end soon and that it shouldn’t end with the killer going free, but that it must.

   And Fredric Brown resolves the issue with the brilliance that was uniquely his. This is a top-notch tale and one I recommend highly.