BRUNO FISCHER – The Hornets’ Nest. Rick Train #1. Dell #79, mapback edition, [date?]. Cover by Gerald Gregg. Previously published in hardcover by Morrow, 1944. Originally appeared in Mammoth Detective, May 1944, as “Murder Wears a Skirt.”

   While this was newspaper reporter Rick Train’s first appearance in print, he could have just as well have been a private eye with one last case before he’s called up by the army as part of the war effort. Not only is he fairly known as a guy who’s broken or solved several big cases, he’s also noted as a collector of all kinds of guns as well as being a crack shot with all of them.

   With only a week before he reports for duty, he finds himself up to his ears in yet another case of double homicide, beginning with a somewhat forlorn young girl with a story she’d like the Train’s paper to buy. Turning her down because he’s already cleared out his desk, he soon learns that she’s been shot and killed soon after leaving him. He doesn’t have a client, but he is of course committed to finding her killer.

   The case, as it turns out, involves an estate that’s up for grabs, with no less than three claimants for the money. All three have good credentials. The question is which one wants the money more than the others? And all the while Train is trying to answer that particular question, he soon becomes the target of the killer himself, presumably – a woman who seems to be as good with a gun as he is.

   The story is competently told without being anything close to exceptional, with characterization next to nil. As a pulp writer, though, with lots of tales well under his belt, Fischer’s prose is smooth enough to keep this one moving. Until that is, when it comes to the final solution and explanation. Without the reader even noticing, the story turns out to have been more complicated than he or she probably realized: it takes eleven full pages to get through Train’s explanation of everything that had just happened in the previous 180.

   Never mind that. As a detective Train is good enough that I had to wonder why his second and final appearance was only in Kill to Fit, a digest-sized paperback original published by a third-rate company called Five Star Mysteries (1946). (Whether that one also first appeared in pulp magazine under a different name, I do not know.)