The narrator, a lawyer and amateur detective, is pulled into the complicated lives of his best friend, his friend's wife, and her war-profiteer lover, during their ensuing divorce.
32 Caliber by Donald McGibeny is a 1920s mystery pulp fiction novel. The story has a great cast of characters, and I enjoyed being dropped into the life of Bupps as he narrates through the martial challenges of his sister, Helen, and his best friend, Jim.
Helen and Jim are going through a bitter divorce, and the cause of their spat is another man by the name of Frank Woods. Their love triangle turns for the worst when Jim mysteriously dies in a car accident. However, Bupps believes his best friend’s death was no accident. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Sometimes, tragic news deadens the senses, like the brief numbness that follows the sudden cutting off of a limb, the pain not manifesting itself until some time afterward. But with me, the fact of Jim’s death clawed and tore at the very foundation of my brain. It stamped itself into my sensibilities with such crushing force that I writhed under the burden of its bitter actuality. I felt as though I, myself, had died and my spirit, snatched from the brilliant, airy sunlight of life, had been plunged into the hammering emptiness of hell. “Jim is dead–big, happy, kind-hearted Jim is dead” ached through my brain.
Later, the coroner reports that Jim was killed by two gunshots. And whoever fired those shots knew Jim would be driving that night. Bupps is caught in the middle of the drama as he tries to find his friend’s killer while hoping his sister isn’t responsible. Each chapter of the book layers the characters with more problems and further entangles them in a web that, once sorted, reveals the murderer shot Jim with a .32 caliber pistol.
In the end, I can’t really say this book surprised me. The resolution is a bit predictable and the last chapter is a little hokey. Still, I recommend this quick paced 128 page novel for anyone that’s looking for an entertaining and suspenseful read you can finish in one night.