Frank Gruber’s 1961 novel, Twenty Plus Two, is a fast-paced mystery about Tom Alder, an unlicensed sleuth whose specialty is finding missing heirs to great fortunes.
No one asks him, but the heir he is searching for in this book is Doris Delaney, who, 22 years earlier, disappeared from a girls’ boarding school and was never heard from again.
Was she abducted? Was she killed?
The infamous disappearance made headlines around the country.
Alder’s interest in the case is piqued when a woman is murdered and among her effects are a couple of old newspaper clippings about the Doris Delaney case.
Alder is vaguely interested in who the murdered woman was and who would want to kill her. He is more interested in why the woman had clippings about Doris Delaney.
The mystery leads Alder from his home town of Los Angeles to New York, then to Chicago, and more. Along the way, he encounters some beautiful women and a notorious con man who wants Alder to find his missing brother.
As in many classic hard-boiled mysteries, the two cases are connected, but Gruber cleverly strings the reader along to the end before revealing the connection.
Gruber constructs his story so well, planting red herrings, adding unexpected twists and turns, and pacing the whole thing so swiftly that obvious questions are forgotten as Alder barrels ahead on his search.
Frank Gruber (1904-1969) may be better known for his Westerns than his mysteries (at least that was my introduction to him). He started his career writing for the pulps in the 1930s. His memoir about those days, The Pulp Jungle (which I reviewed here), is a terrific read. He also wrote scripts in Hollywood from the 1940s to the 1960s.
(For more posts on books, see Todd Mason’s blog.)
(Also, please check out my crime novel, Lyme Depot. Thanks.)