FREDRIC BROWN “Before She Kills.” Novelette. Ed & Am Hunter. First published in Ed McBain’s Mystery Book #3, 1961. Collected in Before She Kills (Dennis McMillan, 1984).
Reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg (Carrol & Graf, 1988).

   Ed and Am Hunter are a rather unique uncle-nephew private eye team based in Chicago. “Am” is short for Ambrose, who is the uncle. Ed is the one who tells their stories; at least he is for this one. According to the cover of the magazine where this one first appears, this is their first case that appeared in novelette form. There were six novels before this one, then followed by another novelette and one final novel.

   In “Before She Kills” they’re hired by a man who suspects that his wife plans to kill him. To that end Ed poses as the man’s semi-estranged half brother whom his wife has never met. The woman is a former strip-tease dancer who once married has decided that sex is something she never wants to do again. To that particular end, their client has found another woman to love and to love him. Secretly they have a young son together.

   There’s nothing here that’s terribly exciting. There’s certainly no mean streets to go down. What there are, though, are a lot of ways the story could go from here, and Fred Brown does with it what he always seems to do: find yet another way for the story to end – one that’s not quite expected but one that’s quietly quite pleasing all  around. As mentioned earlier, there’s nothing really outstanding about this particular tale, but it’s a good one.