In the book's beginning pages, New York City private-eye Ben Gates is working a ritzy wedding for an insurance company. The job is simple: guard the wedding presents and keep the tipsy guests from making off with the family jewels. After Gates is teased by a sultry female guest, he mistakenly drinks a handful of sleeping pills hidden in a mug of hot coffee. Gates falls into snoozeland while the groom's mother is shot and killed in a robbery attempt. The thief is also killed, but there's more to the story.
After Gates awakens, he is questioned by the groom's family and a hard-nosed cop named Lieutenant Minturn. The police think Gates was in on the grab, and the officer seems to have a personal vendetta against private-eyes in general (not uncommon in crime-fiction). A combination of events puts Gates into the driver's seat of the investigation.
First, a newspaper article is published about the murder and points out that Gates was asleep through the debacle. Gates wants to redeem himself and discover who was serving him loaded coffee. Second, Mr. Pope, the wealthy groom's father, brings Gates into the family circle. He explains to Gates that the police and family aren't aware that $75,000 was stolen from his safe during the murder. He wants the money back and hires Gates to find it.
I really love this Ben Gates character. He's the middle ground between serious Lew Archer and comedic Shell Scott. The author's witty dialogue and candor enhance the story and character, making them both instantly enjoyable. Gates doesn't necessarily chase women, but he isn't one to turn away from a hot undercover romp. In Kill Now, Pay Later, there are a number of sexy women attempting to lure Gates into bed or simply remove him from the investigation. While mostly a loner, Gates does rely on a few supporting characters throughout the procedure including a colleague named Davidson.
If you love these urban detective novels, there's plenty to enjoy here. Kill Now, Pay Later is another solid private-eye novel that stands out in the crowded field of mid-20th Century crime-fiction. Ben Gates’ charisma is leveraged by the author to really define the storytelling experience. Based on the high level of quality here, I'll be searching for the remaining series installments.
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