After a forward by author Ed Gorman comparing and contrasting the differences between Julius Katz and Nero Wolf as well as considering how these short stories relate to Dave Zeltserman’s body of crime novels, it is on to the stories in The Julius Katz Collection. If you have never read some of these tales courtesy of his many appearances in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine you are in for a real treat. Even if you have read them before it is always very enjoyable to read them again as well as the new tale just for this collection.
In the award winning novelette “Julius Katz” the latest client for Boston’s most famous and eccentric detective Julius Katz is the 53 year old Norma Brewer. Accompanied by her slightly younger sister, Helen Arden, she wishes to discuss a family matter. A family matter she refused to tell Archie, Julius’ artificial intelligence sidekick, about over the phone thus preventing any real planning by Julius prior to their meeting.
The issue involves their 83 year old mother, Emma, who is suffering from the beginnings of Alzheimer’s. While provisions were made for various things by their father six years ago before he died from cancer, their brother Lawrence has taken over all of the legal aspects of their mother’s situation. Julius does not like family disputes and wants no part of this situation. However, like many a detective before him, he does need the money and Norma Brewer is willing to pay. He takes the case with some stipulations including meeting their mother so that he and Archie can assess her condition. While very reluctant at first, soon Julius is hard at work in a case that quickly takes a dark and sinister turn.
Next up is another award winning story with “Archie’s Been Framed.” As this one opens Julius has plenty of cash in the bank. That means he is not going to be inclined to take a new case for several months. What Archie sees as being lazy, Julius sees as enjoying the finer things of life. Work is not the priority for Julius, but for Archie work helps him refine his neural network. Improving his ability to analyze is a constant theme for Archie, a two inch long piece of advanced technology that appears to be an ordinary tie clip.
With his current love interest Lily Rosten out of town visiting her parents in upstate New York. Julius is in a bit of a funk. A funk that a case would help lift. There is no sign of that until Archie discovers that Denise Penny, a 27 year old woman Archie has been in contact with, has been murdered. Unfortunately, Archie quickly becomes a suspect in her murder. Though he can easily be cleared if the true nature of his existence were revealed, it can’t be disclosed. Julius does not have a choice – he has to investigate and clear Archie.
Even Boston’s most brilliant and eccentric detective Julius Katz has to serve jury duty. In “One Angry Julius and Eleven Befuddled Jurors” he has had enough with the trial and the state’s case. Any one paying attention should have come to the same conclusion and realized the state is going after the wrong person. Fortunately, Katz and his artificial intelligence side kick, Archie, can fix things if—allowed.
“Archie Solves The Case” is the title of the next story. It also happens to be an award winner. Boston’s brilliant investigator Julius Katz does not work unless he absolutely has to make some money. For his artificial intelligence sidekick, Archie, this is a frustration. As much as he can feel or recognize frustration, because Archie uses their cases to build on his neural network. Archie does not expect Julius Katz to meet with this latest potential client, Henri Chervil, but Julius surprises him and easily agrees to a meeting.
Julius soon figures out why the legendary detective agreed to meet Chervil as well as why Chervil wants him. Since Chervil was arrested by Cambridge Police for assaulting a fellow chief by the name of Jasper Quayle it seems pretty obvious what he wants. What Julius wants seems obvious as well to Archie. However, as Archie soon learns, not everything is in the files and databases and real people are often far more complex than their fictional counterparts.
Charles Rosten swears he did not do it in “Julius Katz And A Tangled Webb.” Sitting in the Monro County Jail in Rochester, New York he faces murder charges in the death of his business partner, George Webb. The evidence is so stacked against him that Archie has calculated the odds of a not guilty verdict as being zero. The fact that he is the father of Lily Rosten who Julius has been dating for six months now means there is a more personal stake in the case than is often the case.
“Julius Accused” opens with Archie informing Julius that 39 year old Linds Harnsworth is publicly trashing Julius again. This time he is doing it via reporter for Channel Four News. In one of several interviews he gives to local media he claims that Julius threatened him the night before. Archie can’t prove Julius didn’t since Julius went out for the evening and left Archie at home.
While Julius seems unconcerned about the public media bashing and refuses to discuss the matter, Archie thinks something has to be done and begins investigating on his own. Archie knows that Linus Harnsworth is, at best, a liar. Proving it as well as a few other things is going to take some time.
Wine and food are frequent items in these stories as Julius does love the finer things of life. In the novella “Julius Katz And The Case Of A Sliced Ham” both are very much present as is a murder. The murder of Arthur Trewitt when someone stuck a twelve inch chef’s knife into his chest has rocked the local theater world. It has been three weeks since the murder and things have reached a crisis point for those involved in a play that the actor was to appear in any day now. The man in charge of putting on the play, Theodore Dreckle, is desperate for Julius Katz to take the case and identify the murderer.
Archie knows that Julius is not eccentric though he might very well be brilliant. He also knows that Julius hates working and with his bank account doing just fine right now he has zero motivation to take the case. Soon, Julius has his reason and before long he and Archie are hard at work trying to figure out who did it among a cast of folks that have considerable acting skills. They might be better off trying to herd stray cats.
As Ed Gorman noted in the forward, the tales in The Julius Katz Collection often hint at the darkness that is far more prevalent in the author’s crime novels such as Pariah, Small Crimes and Bad Thoughts among others. These tales also often feature humor which is in short supply in those books. Both are often depicted through the interplay between Julius Katz and Archie. Like many with are artistic temperament, Julius is often a bit prickly at times, but he gets the job done in always enjoyable ways.
That coupled with intriguing cases featuring complex mysteries, plenty of multi-dimensional characters and an artificial intelligence becoming more and more human like make these stories a lot of fun. The Julius Katz Collection features a lot of good reading and is well worth your time.
The Julius Katz Collection
Top Suspense Books
E-Book (also available in paperback)
The author provided me a e-book review copy quite some time ago in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2015