Book: No Badge, No Gun

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No Badge, No Gun: A Carl Wilcox Mystery

Author: Harold Adams
Publisher: Walker & Company

Carl Wilcox, a sort of Sam Spade of the Depression-era Prairie, sets out to find the killer of a brilliant teenage girl.


Harold Adams’s series of mysteries about small-town South Dakota during the Great Depression are like the work of another great artist of that period—the photographer Walker Evans, who captured in black and white every grain and pore of the façades and faces he saw. Carl Wilcox—the rebellious son of a hotel owner who makes his living as a sign painter and occasional detective—is Adams’s camera, recording in sharp, spare, and often pungent language the misdeeds of his fellows.

This time, Wilcox is finishing up a painting job in the town of Jonesville when the local pastor offers him $100 to find the man who raped and strangled his young niece. A frustrated bible teacher and a slick traveling salesman are the likely suspects, but the police have no evidence against either. In his comfortably offhand way, Wilcox sits and talks with all sorts of people, soaking up impressions and possible leads with apparently aimless ease. He also finds time to pursue another of his interests—romancing attractive and available women, in this case the town librarian, another character so quickly brought to life by Adams that you’ll swear you’ve seen her picture in an old album. Other fine Wilcox outings include The Ditched Blonde, The Man Who Was Taller Than God, and A Way with Widows. —Dick Adler

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