Back in the dark ages, when I was in graduate school, my spouse and I would occasionally visit the kind of book stores that featured old, used books. I developed a fondness for things which had been popular when my parents were young, things like James Oliver Curwood books and the like. I also found some aged mysteries, some of which I rather liked. I thought this book was one of them. Well, it was in terms of being a book bought back on those heady days, but it wasn't the book I was thinking it was when I saved it from my spouses desire to throw shit out. Still, in all, this wasn't a half bad read.
So, we are during the early parts of World War II, when people worried that enemy bombers might show up on our shores. Never mind that planes in those days couldn't fly far enough to reach our shores, from anywhere other than Canada or Mexico, neither of which were threats to the U.S. of A. Whatever, we had trial air-raid black outs back in olden times (I even vaguely remember a post-war, pre-cold-war one), and this book involves one of them.
Basically, it's an old-time murder mystery. A person in an appartment building is discovered to have been murdered, perhaps during a black-out test, or perhaps the black out was just a red-herring cover. Police Inspector Schmidt was in the building at the time, visiting his pal, George Bagby (yeah, the author's pen name is that of one of his protagonists, essentially the story's narrator). So, Inspector Schmidt, with "Baggy" tagging along, investigates. Baggy makes all kinds of wild conjectures as to who dunnit, while Insp. Schmidt remains mostly mum. I guess it's supposed to be sort of like Holmes and Watson. But it doesn't make a lot of sense that a professional cop would have a civilian side kick hanging around all the time. Holmes, himself, was an independent investigator, and not a government official. But forget about that, and the story's ok.
So, in no particular order, we have a wealthy industrialist with no heirs. He has designated someone else in the apartment building to take over his business, but unfortunately, his protégé is the one murdered. His secretary, whom he wanted to marry his protégé is also there. She is also a prominent member of the ARP, which I believe means Air Raid Patrol, i.e. the people who enforce the black outs. But the secretary doesn't want the protégé , rather, she is enamored with a young army lieutenant, who hangs around a lot. Then, there is a woman of sketchy repute, who seems to have an ex-con hiding around in her apartment when the air raid practice is going on. Oh, and alleged Russian princess and her devoted personal milkman (delivery guy—people did door-to-door milk delivery in olden times. Ah, I remember it well.), whose route changes whenever the princess moves and who delivers at unusual hours. And so on. At one time or another, pretty much every one of those people falls under plausible suspicion. But, Insp. Schmidt, unlike Baggy, does not act precipitately, and eventually uncovers the true murderer and reveals his/her motive.
It's an interesting cast of characters and a fun enough ride. No, it's not Dickens, or even Raymond Chandler, but it's good fun. If I could give out +s and -s, I'd have marked it ***+.