I read this book for the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge 2015. The challenge is to read 6 or more Vintage Mysteries. All novels must have been originally written between 1960 and 1989 inclusive and be from the mystery category.
I read this for the category “Book with a Detective Team.”
Traps Need Fresh Bait – Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A. A. Fair, 1967
Gardner wrote the Perry Mason courtroom mysteries under his own name. Under the pen-name A. A. Fair, he wrote the novels starring the PI team of Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. Gardner employed the third-person in the Mason novels, but sometimes used the first-person, using Lam’s point of view, in the PI stories. However, Lam sits on important findings, keeping information from his partner Bertha, his starry-eyed secretary Elsie Brand, his clients, the cops, and us readers. While his female clients say he’s a born gentleman and Bertha says he’s a brainy little bastard, we readers can't help but feel - cordially, of course - he is too sneaky and reticent by half.
The story starts with a supposed insurance investigator hiring them to identify who placed an ad that comes close to suborning perjury. That is, the ad solicited witnesses to an auto accident but only if they saw the accident in a way that would support their side of the story. In fact, the placer of the ad was looking to identify somebody down on their luck enough to consider committing perjury for a $300 reward. Lam finds in this affair a deep conspiracy.
This was the 28th of the 29 novels. On one hand, it is nearly free of violence (not counting an off-stage murder), but on the other not much action occurs beyond Lam shaking a tail and Bertha subduing a recalcitrant witness. The repartee between wary Bertha and freewheeling Lam is always a treat as in Elsie Brand’s devotion to Lam. Lam. We readers know, too, that though Bertha often threatens to feed Lam to the cops, she’ll stick by him through fire if need be. Gardner liked inventions and gadgets so Lam uses a phone dialing decoder to catch the numbers of a rotary phone being dialed and a bad guy uses an early version of the copy machine toward his nefarious ends.
Overall an uncomplicated read best reserved for times when a reader doesn’t feel up to something more cognitively or emotionally challenging.