Fifth and last entry in the mystery series. The first was “The Chinese Doll” (1946) Tucker took a break from SF to write this series about the P.I. from Boone,Illinois. He has a good sense of humor and knows the tricks of the trade. It’s a fun series.
Horne gets a call on the newly installed dial system from a drunken Lonna Randolph. She’s at a birthday party for her brother Clifford. She wants to hire him to make Clifford disappear for a few days as a practical joke on their brother Ralph who will be returning from St.Louis. Horne finally agrees to see her.
After some running around he gets to the house where the party is winding down. He has to knock a charging man out before going inside. Lonna tells him that was a drunken Clifford. Horne says he wants both of them in his office tomorrow and they’re to sign a paper outlining the whole thing. He calls his friend on the police force to check them out. Nothing wrong.
The paper is signed and he explains to Clifford how to get lost. To make sure he does it right Horne calls Rothman, a friend at an agency, to trail Clifford. He does what he’s supposed to do. That night he goes back to the house to visit Lonna.
That night he has dinner and drinks and falls asleep on Lonna’s floor and she heads for the bedroom. The next morning he leaves and finds out things have changed. He waits at the train station to instruct Clifford on phase two of the plan. He doesn’t show up.
Back at the office he talks with Rothman. That’s when he finds out Clifford is dead in his hotel room with a large screwdriver in his ribs. The only two people who knew where he was are Horne and Lonna. Horne has an alibi. Lonna might. She hires him to get her out of this mess.
Horne contacts a detective agency in St.Louis run by a man named Thingbottom. He’s married to a former lady wrestler. He finds out that Ralph Randolph has been missing for two weeks. It’s further discovered that Ralph tried to pawn off a supposed first draft of the Constitution. He also sells fake rare books. He split town before receiving all the money for the fake draft. Horne ends up on a steamboat on the Ohio River where things get complicated.
The book moves quickly like all of the series and is well worth exploring.