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The Bigger They Come by A. A. Fair
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The Bigger They Come (1939)

by A. A. Fair

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The Bigger They Come is the first book in what would eventually become a thirty book series over a thirty year span from 1939 to 1970 (not counting Hard Case's lost novel The Knife Slipped published in 2016). The essence of the Cool and Lam series is a mismatched pair of detectives, which includes big Bertha Cool (originally 300 pounds but later a svelte 165 pounds) and brainy but scrawny Donald Lam. This novel introduces the two characters and brings them together.

This one is perhaps a bit lighter in tone than later books in the series and, for those of us who didn't start reading at the beginning of the series, it's real interesting to see how the characters started out and what they later became.

Here, Lam is very young, green, wet behind the ears, and not at all sure of himself either as a detective or with women. His background as a disbarred lawyer is emphasized and this one is resolved in a Perry Mason like legal way which makes you wonder if Gardner's original intent was to sort of repeat the success he had with the Perry Mason series just in a different setting. Perhaps the fact Gardner published this under the pseudonym AA Fair is a hint as to what his intentions were.

In later books in the series, Lam has a real confidence about him and his abilities and even Bertha realizes that he's the real detective of the two. This is not the best of the series, but it's an enjoyable read. It's unfortunate that most of this series is not available in e-book format yet as a little effort and perhaps a library Card is needed to find some of the volumes in this series. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
While I enjoyed Bertha Cool and the way she runs her detective agency, I swear the plot is the same as one of the Perry Mason's, though I've never been able to figure out which one. ( )
  aulsmith | Jan 30, 2010 |
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Old school gum shoe detective story. Series begins here. Quick wit combined with great, well researched incidents make for engaging story. I think I like these even better than the Perry Mason books. Some of the situations haven't aged well, but think of it as historical and you can easily get past that.
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