Headed For A Hearse (1935) by Jonathan Latimer
Man, I am glad that I didn't have the edition with this cover on it. Mine is # 6 in the Dell Great Mystery Library as selected by Anthony Boucher, Humphrey Bogart and Louis Untermeyer. They selected some awesome titles some of which I am going to try to read this year.
Headed For A Hearse is one of several titles that Latimer wrote featuring the detective William Crane. In this book however, Crane doesn't feature much in the story until near the end. Robert Westland is on death row for the murder of his estranged wife. Only 5 days away from electrocution he finally snaps out of his daze and decides that he doesn't want to be killed for a murder he didn't commit. He manages to bribe the warden to allow him to meet every day with a group of people who have a vested interest in his case: a lawyer, detectives, his business partners and his lover. Together all these folks under the direction of the lawyer, Finklestein, work to solve what is essentially a locked room mystery.
Suffice to say there are lots of open leads (Westland put up little resistance at the trial) to follow up on in a limited amount of time. As more information comes in the detective Crane becomes more a part of the story and integral to the ultimate solution.
This book is awesome. It is funny, gritty and the mystery is actually interesting to try and figure out. There is a great scene where Finklestein and the detectives visit and interview a hot slightly slutty showgirl. Later that night on the way back to the hotel room:
"I've got a good idea." Crane took a coin from his pocket, walked over to a phone booth by the cashier's cage, and called a number. "Miss Hogan's apartment," he said. In a minute he spoke again. "This is the State's Attorney's office, we must speak to Mr. Finklestein." There was another pause. "Mr Finklestein? - I suggest, Mr. Finklestein, that you have the decency to pull the living-room blinds."
He returned to the table, as pleased as if he had solved the Westland case.