A.A. Fair [pseud. Erle Stanley Gardner]. Top of the Heap (1952) 243 pp.
Private investigator Donald Lam, of the Los Angeles agency of Cool & Lam, is hired—at a hefty fee—by John Carver Billings the Second to establish an alibi. Billings was the last man to be seen with Maurine Auburn, the moll of a notorious gangster who is recovering from an assassination attempt. Maurine has now vanished and Billings, who is drawing the attention of the local cops, claims that she ditched him and he ended up sharing the evening with two other girls from San Francisco who were in town on holiday. Lam locates the girls and verifies Billings’ version of the story. But, it all seems too easy. Refusing to just take Billings’ money and keep his mouth shut, Lam goes to San Francisco and digs up a mining scam, an illegal casino, and a couple of murders. In the process, he manages to earn the wrath of his senior partner Bertha Cool—before turning a cool profit on mining stocks.
Setting: San Francisco