MAX ALLAN COLLINS “Marble Mildred.” Nathan “Nate” Heller. First appeared in An Eye for Justice, edited by Robert J. Randisi (Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1988: A PWA Anthology). Collected in Dying in the Post-War World: A Nathan Heller Casebook, (Foul Play Press, hardcover, 1991).

   Running a one-man PI office in 1936 post-Depression Chicago, Nate Heller is hired by a woman who thinks her husband is cheating on her. It turns out that she’s wrong. In spite of following the man for several days, he manages to find incriminating at all. In truth he discovers that the story is quite opposite. His client has been lying to him, and quite badly.

   But when the non-erring husband is found with several bullet holes in him and close to dying, which he eventually does, it is Heller’s client who is suspected. Is he expected to clear her? Especially when, hired by a public defender, his efforts on her behalf just manage to uncover an even deeper – and sadder – story.

   Heller’s career over the years – and seventeen novels and four short story collections — has gotten him involved with people such as Charles Lindbergh, John Dillinger, Amelia Earhart, the Kennedys, and more. He may even, so rumors say, have gone to bed with Marilyn Monroe.

   So it comes as no surprise to read a short note at the end of this one that it too is based on a true story, with most but not all of the names changed. Collins is a very good writer. There’s no doubt about that. It’s just that the case itself is not very interesting. I can’t put my finger on it in order to tell you why. Maybe it’s as simple as this: the case it’s based on just didn’t have a lot of story value in it to begin with.