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I had heard of Ed Lacy, of course, but had never read anything before SHAKEDOWN FOR MURDER. I did a little research on Wikipedia and found he was an interesting fellow. Born in 1911, he passed away in 1968 after a heart attack. Though white, he is credited with creating the first “real” African-American PI in fiction, Toussaint “Touie” Marcus Moore in the 1957 novel, ROOM TO SWING, for which he received the 1958 Edgar for best novel. Lacy disliked series characters and only wrote one sequel a few years later.

I came across an interesting profile of Lacy by author Ed Lynskey, worth reading if you are as unfamiliar with this author as myself.

Now on to the novel.

Matt Lund hadn’t really intended to get involved in a murder investigation. Although with the New York police department, he’d never been more than a beat cop and now, at age fifty-eight, he was a cell block attendant.

Besides he was on vacation, his cat and he, visiting his son and his family in the small town of End Harbor. The plan was to spend a week, then visit his daughter’s family for a week, then have two blessed weeks just to relax. Fishing with grandson was his priority on the first stop.

But when he arrives in End Harbor, the town is buzzing about the death of the old doctor, hitting a tree like that at seventy miles an hour and being thrown from the car, only to to be run over by a hit-and-run driver while lying unconscious in the road.

The grandson wanted to see the car, but the young cop guarding it was an officious little twit and Matt, stupidly, began showing off for the exuberant little boy, flashing his badge in front of the cop. But when he got a look at the car, he could tell right away the official cause was bull. The old doc couldn’t have been thrown from the car. The steering wheel was pushed into the seat. Then he noticed that the lock on the door wasn’t sprung, indicating the door had been open when it hit the tree. He pointed all this out to the police chief and when he got the answer, “Maybe he was driving with the door open,” he knew something else was going on here. They couldn’t believe the doc was driving with a door open at seventy miles an hour!

He still didn’t want to get involved, being on vacation and he had no standing in the town as a peace officer.

But when an arrest is made later that day and his daughter-in-law wants him to look into it, the suspect and she were both of Greek descent, he reluctantly goes to see the police chief again. He learns exactly where he stands when he happens to mention his daughter-in-law wanted him to help because of the Greek connection and the chief says, “You let your son marry a Greek!”

The police chief declared it an open-and-shut case, but the only evidence they had was a neighbor hearing shouted voices with the suspect during a house call shortly before the doc was killed. It was known that the doc was hard of hearing and had a bad hearing aid. They had to know it wouldn’t hold up in court, but they didn’t seem particularly interested in doing any sort of investigation.

This was my first novel by Ed Lacy. Yes I know that’s probably embarrassing, but what can I say. Enjoyed it thoroughly and will definitely seek out more.

For more Forgotten Books, visiting Patti Abbott’s blog, PATTINASE.