Sixth entry in the nine book series that started with “Five Alarm Funeral” (1942) and ended with “Too Hot To Handle” (1961). Pedley doesn’t care about rules and regulations. If he wants to get into someone’s apartment he’ll buzz first and then use a passkey he bulled out of a doorman or superintendent. He’ll shove people around without a care to get what he wants while investigating arson. In this entry he investigates a fatal fire at a candle factory in the Bronx. The story takes place over twenty-four hours.
It’s a five alarmer at a candle factory owned by the Kopate family. When Ben gets there the blaze is in full force. The night watchman says he heard screaming but the fire kept him from investigating further. Ben charges in and finds Ruby Lawton passed out in a supply closet and in bad shape. He gets her to an ambulance.
A man in a tux shows up and before Ben can question him the man gives him a sucker punch and takes off. Ben’s assistant Russ Drake grabs him. He’s Paul Fontaine, a cousin of the Kopate brothers Hans and Jans who control the factory. Ruby was Paul’s secretary and the two were having an affair. It’s discovered that a meeting between Paul,Hans and Jans was to take place that night at the factory. The issue was a merger with another company and they were at odds on the issue. A deadline was just days away. Ruby was told by one of them to sneak in and take notes. She dies at the hospital without regaining consciousness. All she could do was mumble the letter “F.”
That initial belongs to Effy Williams, Hans’s secretary. Ben goes to her apartment. No answer so he just let himself in. Effy tells him to leave. He doesn’t care and searches the place. He knows someone was there but she’s not talking, He tells her she’s going downtown. She says she has a flight to Cuba. Too bad. While waiting for her to get dressed he sees a section of wall that’s a closet. He goes to open it and he’s greeted by a man with a skipole who stabs him in the side. Despite that Ben gets the best of him.
The man is Charlie Reeburg, Effy’s lawyer and husband. He’s got a deal going where she can continue her affair with Hans because he left his stock in the company to her. Ben takes them both to police headquarters. Ben left Russ back at Hans’ house to keep an eye on the three family members. More problems. Someone hit him over the head with a candlestick. Ben wants a few minutes alone with whoever did it…if they can find him.
The investigation turns up an arsonist, Slip Young, who has just been released from a Milwaukee prison. The man is now in New York. Ben knows someone in the family paid him and he’s determined to nail whoever hired him. Things get complicated when the night watchman is found dead in his hotel room. Laying on the floor is a candlestick.
As the investigation continues Ben discovers that Slip loves the ladies…professional ladies. He goes to Slip’s hotel room and finds a sixteen year old hooker with a bullet wound on her butt. That leads him to a brothel run by Mama Crawl.
Winchell wrote for radio and the pulps so you can expect a fast paced story with a no nonsense rule breaking hero.