Jeff Green is a handwriting expert working out of a small office in 1950s Manhattan, helping clients certify wills and other legal documents, but he’s more interested in cases involving murder, like the one brought to him by Aice Anthony involving the murder of her estranged father, James Garvin. Garvin’s past is a tangled web of several identities and the smuggling of gems from Europe, and his Manhattan apartment, where he was found shot, becomes the crossroads for several parties searching for a missing diamond necklace and more loose diamonds, as well as the scene of a second murder. The reader finds out right away where those gems are, Garvin has hidden them inside the roller of his typewriter, but no one else, including Jeff Green, figures that out for a long time. Meanwhile, Green’s investigation takes him to some dodgy nightclubs, pits him against other smugglers and their henchmen, and takes him to a farm in Virginia, and a remote hunting cabin in the New Jersey pine barrens where the murderer is waiting to kill him.
I’m generally not a fan of murder mysteries unless they’re Sherlock Holmes ones from A. Conan Doyle. Several authors of novels for young readers that I like did murder mysteries too under a pen name, and this is one of them from Keith Robertson, author of the Henry Reed books and many others I like. Sadly, the things I enjoy most about his writing, including a good dose of humor, are mostly missing from this book, which is trying to be like the hard-boiled detective stories of writers like Dashiel Hammett. I haven’t read those, but I didn’t enjoy this one much. It’s very plot-driven, and Jeff Green, the lead, is not such an appealing character. His moral compass wavers, and he does things Robertson’s teen characters would not, nor does he seem to be particularly smart at either solving mysteries or avoiding trouble. He’s certainly no Sherlock Holmes. Robertson wrote more of these, but I won’t be searching for them.