GEORGE BAGBY – I Could Have Died. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1979.

GEORGE BAGBY I Could Have Died

   I find the stories that “Bagby” tells us about the exploits of Inspector Schmidt of New York City Homicide about as fast and easy to devour as a fresh batch of hot, buttered popcorn. And he must write them at just about the same rate — after all, this does make seven now that have appeared in just the last three years.

   It doesn’t actually begin as a case of homicide. Following the kidnapping of Bagby and two lady companions as part of a successful hotel robbery, quite inexplicably the younger of the two ladies finds herself falling in love with one of her captors. And of course a murder eventually occurs.

   There are a few too many holes for the engagingly pleasant and witty plot that results to hold up well under close observation, but in all honesty it also very nearly works the way it’s supposed to.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1979. This review also appeared earlier in the Hartford Courant. Very slightly revised.

[UPDATE] 03-03-11.   I’m going to suggest this book to Patti Abbott for inclusion in tomorrow’s weekly roundup of Forgotten Friday mystery novels on her blog. I don’t believe that George Bagby — in real life Aaron Marc Stein, under which name he wrote an equally long list of other detective novels — got nearly the critical attention that I always thought he should have, and he’s definitely forgotten by all but a few devoted aficionados now.

   Perhaps he was too prolific, and maybe the endings didn’t match the cleverness of other writers’ mysteries (nor perhaps the openings of his own books), but I always admired the way he had for descriptive passages, making the most prosaic actions — such as taking the cap off a toothpaste tube or hunting for a set of lost keys — seem interesting.

   George Bagby, by the way, if the review wasn’t quite clear on this, was both the pen name and the character in the Bagby novels who tagged along with Inspector Schmidt and chronicled his cases for him.