Street photographers Bingo Riggs and Handsome Kuzak don’t think it’s a big deal when they kidnap Mr. Pigeon. He’s already been missing for seven years, and they’re just going to keep him for a week until he’s declared dead. They figure his partner, Harkness Penneyth, can collect from the insurance and then will be happy to split it with them because they did him such a favor. What could go wrong?
“It had started out as a simple little business venture, keeping the Sunday Pigeon out of sight until Harkness Penneyth could collect five hundred thousand dollars from the insurance company and split it with the International Foto, Motion Picture, and Television Corporation of America. But that simple business venture had seemed to be become involved with a lot of things, and Bingo had an unhappy suspicion that Mr. Penneyth’s murder was the least of them.”
Before too long there are several more interested parties trying to horn in on the money, and then turning up dead. Bingo and Handsome just want to get to the end of the week—and keep Mr. Pigeon from the same fate.
This is the first of three books by Craig Rice featuring Bingo and Handsome. The April Robin Murders (which I read a few months ago) was fun, so I decided to find out how the boys got their start.
The plot has a subtle complexity that is really very well done. Rice weaves the mystery around the everyday lives of Bingo and Handsome, as they work to keep body and soul together 25 cents at a time. In between keeping Mr. Pigeon under wraps, outsmarting gangsters, and solving four murders, the boys continue to find ways to keep their landlady happy and stretch a dollar. It never felt like padding or got in the way of the mystery. It did add a lot of entertainment value to the story. The mystery is a good one too. Rice lays out all of the necessary clues, and with situations and suspects that pop up when least expected, gives the reader plenty of red herrings to contend with. Even a well-read crime fiction aficionado will find it hard to identity the murderer.
The characters of Bingo and Handsome are sweetly funny and just a bit naïve. Bingo is the brains, the idea man. His goal is to make them rich in one go, while Handsome is, well he’s handsome. Handsome isn’t big on brains, except that he can remember everything he’s ever read, which comes in handy when Bingo gets one of his ideas. They never see the problems in a scheme until they’re already neck deep in it. But no matter how bad things get, they have their loyalties, to each other and to their friends, this has the unfortunate side effect of keeping them from backing down from any situation. And ethics, they’ve got ethics, like never borrow money from a girl, or from someone you’ve kidnapped.
A nicely developed plot, lively characters and situations. A mystery that is just fun to read.
My Judgment – 4/5
Prior Rulings – John Norris @ Pretty Sinister Books
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2014 Bingo – Read one book with a time, day, month, etc. in the title