The short fiction of Kansas native Fletcher Flora (1914-1968) was a regular fixture in “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine” in the 1950s and 1960s as well as dozens of Hitchcock-branded anthologies. Wildside Press has compiled many of Flora’s greatest hits in two eBook compilations for the ridiculously low price of a buck-a-pop. “For Money Received” is a 31-page novelette that originally appeared in the October 1964 issue of AHMM. It was also included in the Hitchcock anthologies “Meet Death at Night” (1964) and “Murderer’s Row” (1975) and most recently in “The Second Fletcher Flora Megapack” from Wildside Press.
The story is narrated by cut-rate private investigator Percy Hand whose business is so slow that his receptionist is an electric buzzer. One day he’s visited by new client with an unusual request. Mrs. Coon believes her husband is being blackmailed by his mistress. The fact that her husband is straying doesn’t pose much of a problem, but the wife won’t settle for blackmail and hires Percy to get to the bottom of the matter.
An easy job soon becomes complicated after the secret lovers somehow spot Percy and give him the slip. Percy needs the money and must figure out a way to salvage this engagement and get to the bottom of the blackmail scheme that becomes a murder case. Percy is a great main character because he’s unusually focused on his own professional ethics - a challenge when engaging in the dirty business of tailing a cheating spouse. He’s also a legitimately funny and sarcastic narrator with a great self-deprecating nature, and I found myself laughing aloud several times over the course of this single-sitting mystery.
Flora is a fun author, and I suspect that shorter fiction plays to his strengths. “For Money Received” is a clever bit of short fiction that won’t change your life but serves as a great introduction to this largely-forgotten author’s body of work. It’s an easy recommendation and a breezy way to spend an hour. I also learned that Percy is the main character in other short stories and Flora’s full-length novel called “Leave Her to Hell” from 1958 that’s been reprinted by Stark House. I intend to check that one out soon.
Buy a copy of this story HERE