Harry Lipkin has been a private detective in Miami for a long time. He spent a few years as a cop early in his career but for the last 50 yeas or so he has been out on his own. Harry is 87 and he's slowing down a bit, but he's still got cases.
These days I deal mostly with the sort of cases the cops don't want. Cops want serial homicide. It makes them feel good when they catch someone. But how tough is it to catch a serial killer? You put his picture on TV Nationwide. You wait. Ten days later a schoolteacher on her lunch break spots him. He's walking out of a Baskin Robbins in a hick town somewhere in Montana. That's him. The guy whose picture was on TV. Before you know it he's surrounded by a million armed cops telling him to drop everything and freeze.. And then they shoot him. Ninety-one cents' worth of vanilla, banana, and pistachio ice cream wasted.
As Harry says, he may not be the best in Miami, but he's sure the oldest. In this short mystery by former writer for Private Eye, Barry Fantoni, Larry tells us about his most recent case.
Mrs Norma Weinberger, a widow a little younger than Harry, has had a problem with theft. The items stolen aren't of great value, especially compared with her million-dollar jewelry collection and objet d'artes lying about her mansion. A Limoges enamel box is missing and some love letters are gone.
"Since my pillbox was stolen, Mr Lipkin," she said, "I haven't had a wink of sleep."
"You think maybe the thief is planning on stealing something else?"
She shook her head. "My sleeping pills are in the box."
There are five suspects: the chauffeur, the gardener, the chef, the butler, and the maid. Harry sets out to investigate all of them. They all appear to have more money to spend than they should considering their wages. Harry has contacts all over the city, so when the chauffeur tells him he makes a lot of money boxing professionally, Harry knows just who to call. A friend who is a trainer looks up the guy and determines he is a boxer and he's good. Harry can scratch the chauffeur from the list.
The chef, a black Ethopian Jew, contributes a lot of money to build synagogues in Ethopia. Harry has an old friend, a rabbi who is involved in fund raising and he vouches for the chef. The butler spends a lot of time at the racetrack, but Harry's old pal who works at the stables assures him the butler has a system that really works. He is making money betting on the horses. Scratch the butler.
And so it goes. Everybody gets scratched from the list. So who is stealing Mrs Weinburger's things? The solution to the thefts isn't as complex as might be expected and Harry, with the help of his client's nephew, solves the mystery.
Harry is charming, he knows his limitations (he keeps a .38 and a spare set of dentures handy at all times), and he still has a few cases to work on before he retires, and his narrative of the Weinberger case is delightful.