Fire in the Rectory and Two More John Nolan Detective Novellas (John Nolan Detective Stories)

Written by Stan Freeman
Review by Susan McDuffie

New York City, 1915: John Nolan, private detective and Irish immigrant, is summoned by an insurance company to the scene of a fire at the local Catholic rectory. Although the damage was mainly confined to one room, it becomes apparent that a valuable painting, a Raphael Madonna, has been destroyed. Or was the fire an attempt to defraud the insurance company and cover up the theft of the artwork? Detective Nolan intrepidly works through this, and two other cases – a kidnapping of a child, and a murder of a philandering violinist at the Metropolitan Opera House – in this collection of three detective novellas.

The dialogue is well written, and the plots move along nicely as Nolan investigates all three cases. The period detail is extremely accurate, giving a nice feel of New York in the early 20th century, and photo illustrations add to this sense of the era. All three mysteries are competently crafted. I did feel that a little more sensory detail in the writing would have increased my emotional involvement with these characters, but fans of classical detective novels and who-done-its should enjoy these stories.