Published in 1952, this is the thirteenth of 29 novels starring the PI partnership of Bertha Cool and Donald Lam that were written by Erle Stanley Gardner under the pen name of A.A. Fair. After reading about half-dozen of this series (a misnomer since they needn't be read in any order), I think that Fair's Cool and Lam novels are smarter, sexier, wittier and just more entertaining than Gardner's Perry Mason novels.
Top of the Heap is worth reading because it is both characteristic and uncharacteristic of Gardner's approach to mystery writing. As usual, the murder is a relatively small part of an intricate scheme, plot, or scam. As the running joke, Bertha Cool plays the comic miser like Uncle Scrooge and Mr. Krabs. Her hard-charging ways comically contrast with ex-lawyer Donald Lam's subtle questioning of persons of interest and cunningly holding off the cops that want to put him in the hoosegow. Another constant is that because gentlemanly Lam is such a considerate listener, all the female characters fall like dominoes for him in spite of his short stature and poverty due to Bertha paying him so little
This is the new Hard Case Crime edition of the wonderful old A.A. Fair story (really by Erle Stanley Gardner). Brainy Donald Lam and his boss, the large and blustery (but nobody's fool) Bertha Cool, solve another case. Recommended.
When the beautiful girlfriend of a notorious gangster vanishes, the last man to be seen with her needs an alibi - and fast. Enter Donald Lam of the Cool & Lam detective agency. But his client's story doesn't add up, and soon Lam's uncovered a mining scam, an illegal casino, a doulbe homicide...and a chance for an enterprising private eye to make a small forutne - if he can just stay alive long enough to cash in!