Now I'm dipping into the Stout waters again, slowly and cautiously, like a beginning swimmer afraid that the shallow end of the pool will suddenly drop off into the dangerous deep end and I'll be lost with nothing beneath my feet. For my re-entry experimental reading I decided to read all the non-series mystery novels by Stout this summer. And I was surprised that in Alphabet Hicks I found the kind of quirky characters and puzzling plot that I craved when I was so much younger.
Alfred Hicks earns his nickname from his odd business cards. They are printed with his name and only a string of seemingly nonsensical letters forcing everyone he hands a card to ask, "And what's that stand for?" M.S.O.T.P.B.O.M. = Melancholy Spectator of the Psychic Bellyache of Mankind. C.F.M.O.B. is translated as Candidate for Mayor of Babylon. Not Babylon, Long Island. The Old Testament Babylon. Hicks is quite the sarcastic cut-up. He's also a disbarred lawyer who mostly ekes out a living as a taxi driver when he isn't trying to be a private detective. It's in his role as cabbie that he is recognized by one of his fares, Judith Dundee, who hires him on the spot.
Her husband Dick Dundee, president of a plastics manufacturing company, suspects her of turning traitor and selling corporate secrets to his rival. Mrs. Dundee tells Hicks her paranoid husband has turned against her and is threatening to end their marriage. At the core of his paranoia is evidence that proves she has been in cahoots with Jimmy Vail, the owner of the competitor plastics firm. Her price for hiring Hicks is too much to resist. He takes on her case and is soon embroiled in a messy murder and a corporate spying plot.
|1st US edition: Farrar & Rinehart, 1941|
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BLOG LONGEVITY NOTE: This marks the 100th post for this blog which is approaching its half year anniversary. I'm glad it happened to be a post on a book from the Golden Age of detective fiction since that was supposed to be my focus when I started this writing adventure back in late January of this year. But all in all, I like how this blog has morphed into something all-encompassing in crime fiction (and other related genre fiction). It's almost as if it's trying on different personas just like a child growing up. Here's to another 100 before December 31!