I have fond memories of reading books by Erle Stanley Gardner. I read many Perry Mason mysteries starting in my teens. I suspect I discovered the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam series later. Those books were written under the pseudonym of A. A. Fair. I have not read either of these series for years, so I am no expert on his books.
This month I read The Count of Nine for the 1958 Book challenge at Past Offences. I was somewhat disappointed with this book, and I am hoping this is just an example of a lesser Cool / Lam story. However, my copy is a Pocket Book paperback with a lovely cover, and that may be why I bought it in the first place.
This summary is from the section on Erle Stanley Gardner at the.Golden Age of Detection Wiki.
The Count of Nine (1958), a Bertha Cool and Donald Lam novel, opens with an impossible theft (Chapters 1-8). The theft recalls the criminal schemes found in Gardner's early pulp stories about Lester Leith and Paul Pry. The subsequent murder mystery in the novel is much less interesting. The tale includes the complex architecture sometimes found in Golden Age books.It is true that the plot is almost divided into two parts. The first eight chapters described above is only 50 pages and covers the set up and solution of the "impossible" crime. The next 130 pages follow up on a second related section with more action and excitement. I found that section of the book more interesting.
Bertha and Donald have an unusual relationship. Bertha is the boss, but Donald goes his own way. They argue a lot but have an affectionate relationship underneath it all. Donald gets beat up a lot and is not big on carrying a gun. Bertha, on the other hand, doesn't do much detecting. In this book she is hired to watch the entrance of a party and insure that some valuable art objects are not stolen. I am going to have to read more of these because I think I just need to get to know these characters.
I have copies of Fools Die on Friday (1947) and Top of the Heap (1952) and neither of these are very early in the series. I would like to read the first in the series, The Bigger They Come (1939), where Bertha and Donald start working together. Also, the 6th through the 9th books in the series, around World War II: Owls Don't Blink (1942) - Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans; Bats Fly at Dusk (1942) - Donald has joined the Navy; Cats Prowl at Night (1943) - Bertha works alone; and Give 'em the Ax (1944) - Donald returns.
Publisher: Pocket Books, 1962, orig. pub. 1958.
Length: 182 pages
Series: Bertha Cool and Donald Lam #18
Genre: Mystery, private detectives
Source: I bought my copy.