I was thumbing through some old hardcovers and stumbled on Best Detective Stories of the Year – 1978. It was edited by Edward D. Hoch and published by E.P. Dutton. The first author I flipped to was John D. MacDonald. The entry is called “Finding Anne Farley”, a novelette that first appeared in 1977 as a serial in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers via the publication's Field Newspaper Syndicate.
There are a number of interesting aspects to “Finding Anne Farley”. First, and foremost, is that this was the debut of MacDonald's short-lived insurance-investigator Duke Rhoades. The character's first name is derived from his described physical appearance as being similar to actor John Wayne. The character appeared in two additional stories, “Friend of the Family” (1978) and “Eyewitness” (1979). Second, “Finding Anne Farley” was a unique five-week concept that allowed readers to mail responses on how the story will end. The lucky winners received a monetary prize payout. Lastly, the syndicated run of the story allowed newspapers to run the story under an alternate title of “Ring My Love With Diamonds”.
As readers are introduced to Rhoades, he has just accepted his most recent job of retrieving stolen diamonds. The owner of an Atlanta jewelry store filed an insurance claim that 32 pieces of jewelry were stolen from his store. The thief, and possible accomplices, reproduced and systematically replaced these stolen diamonds with fakes. After a lengthy criminal investigation, and repeated calls and letters, the store was paid out for the missing diamonds. The conclusion is that an employee named Anne Farley was behind the theft. She took the money and ran, seemingly disappearing into parts unknown. If Rhoades can get a lead on her whereabouts, he may be able to locate the diamonds and put the insurance company back to even.
This five-week serial amounts to about 30 hardcover pages, a suitable length for MacDonald's “search and rescue” narrative to propel through the peaks and valleys of the investigation. Rhoades is a likable hero, complete with the gumshoe characteristics and tender-heart that makes for an honest and capable protagonist. The ending was a little stereotypical of a cozy whodunit, but getting there was fun. You can read this story for free HERE.
My source for this review was Steve Scott's excellent blog The Trap of Solid Gold. He has a detailed, and more analytical look at this story and character HERE. I also snagged the accompanying artwork there as well.