HAROLD ADAMS – A Perfectly Proper Murder. Carl Wilcox #11. Walker, hardcover, 1993. No paperback edition.

HAROLD ADAMS A Perfectly Proper Murder

   This is one of my favorite series, with a regional and historical background set in Depression era South Dakota and Minnesota.

   Carl Wilcox is an ex-con, now a semi-itinerant sign painter. He finds himself looking for work in Podunkville, and quickly manages to offend the town’s leading citizen. The next day the man is found murdered, and Wilcox briefly comes under suspicion.

   Thanks to his past help to his hometown law, he is enlisted by the local cop to help investigate the case. It turns out that the murdered man wasn’t really a very nice person, with wife-beating and wholesale philandering among his more easily provable sins. Darker yet are hinted at. Suspects include but are not limited to his young wife and his children by an earlier marriage.

   Once again, Adams’ strengths are quickly apparent. The first-person narrative is easy and unforced, and the dialogue is realistic and entertaining. Adams has a knack for characterization in few words, and all of the the players come alive enough to believe in and relate to.

   The small-town ambiance of the time is thick enough to cut with a knife, and tasty to boot. On the down side, I think Adams may be overworking the device of Wilcox helping the law, and this is a very slender book for the price. It’s still a fine series, though, from a fine writer.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #9, September 1993.

      The Carl Wilcox series

1. Murder, 1981

HAROLD ADAMS A Perfectly Proper Murder

2. Paint the Town Red, 1982
3. The Missing Moon, 1983

HAROLD ADAMS A Perfectly Proper Murder

4. The Naked Liar, 1985 (Shamus nomination)
5. The Fourth Widow, 1986
6. The Barbed Wire Noose, 1987
7. The Man Who Met the Train, 1988
8. The Man Who Missed the Party, 1989
9. The Man Who Was Taller Than God, 1992 (Shamus Award)

HAROLD ADAMS A Perfectly Proper Murder

10. A Perfectly Proper Murder, 1993
11. A Way with Widows, 1994

HAROLD ADAMS A Perfectly Proper Murder

12. The Ditched Blonde, 1995
13. Hatchet Job, 1996
14. The Ice Pick Artist, 1997
15. No Badge, No Gun, 1998 (Shamus nomination)

HAROLD ADAMS A Perfectly Proper Murder

16. Lead, So I Can Follow, 1999