Jim Hanvey, Detective

Poisoned Pen. (Library of Congress Crime Classics). Aug. 2021. 256p. ed. by Leslie Klinger. ISBN 9781464215032. pap. $14.99. M
The latest in the Library of Congress Crime Classics series introduces seven stories by Octavus Cohen, first published in 1923 in the Saturday Evening Post. Klinger, the volume’s editor, introduces Cohen’s detective character Jim Hanvey as warm, big-hearted, kind man, but readers are more likely to remember the physical description of Hanvey as a gargantuan, ungainly man with cheap clothes and a gold toothpick. It’s Hanvey’s eyes that are eeriest, as described in the story “Fish Eyes”: “great sleepy orbs of fishy hue” that blink slowly. Hanvey’s few friends are criminals who both fear him and trust him to play fair. The seven cases in this volume all involve con men or thieves. In “The Knight’s Gambit,” a polished con man who’s engaged to a millionaire’s besotted 17-year-old daughter falls apart just because Hanvey is watching. “Common Stock” involves an employee and a thief who are both intent on picking up a voting proxy; Hanvey introduces them on a cross-country train trip and allows them both to feel in control, but all the while he’s manipulating the entire scenario. In each story, Hanvey’s presence and watchfulness are often enough to bring about the criminal’s downfall.
VERDICT The slow-moving detective stories, with no murder or violence, are likely to appeal to readers who enjoy classic short mysteries such as G. K. Chesterton’s “Father Brown” tales.
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