If you enjoy watching classic mysteries on television, you're probably familiar with Lieutenant Columbo. He's a fairly quiet, self-effacing kind of police detective; his opponents tend to underestimate his abilities. That is generally a mistake. As played by Peter Falk, Columbo, the creation of William Link and the late Richard Levinson, may look fairly shabby, but he is both smart and patient.
Well, if you enjoy Columbo on the small screen, his co-creator, William Link, has written "The Columbo Collection," a fine collection of short stories about the intrepid Lieutenant. The collection, from publisher Crippen & Landru, is reviewed this week on our Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the full review here.
These stories are good, fair-to-the-reader mysteries written as "inverted mysteries," a style invented nearly 100 years ago by the late R. Austin Freeman, the creator of Dr. Thorndyke. In an inverted mystery, you generally start with the crime and the criminal fully exposed to the reader; the story then goes on to follow the investigator as he or she tries to identify and catch the criminal. As Link says, the stories are not "whodunits," they're more "howcatchems."
That may be, but they are certainly very firmly in the classic mystery tradition; for that matter, the Columbo character has been around for half a century. And while many of the books written around characters who began their fictional existence on TV are not very good, that's not true of the short stories in "The Columbo Collection." It may be the hand of Bill Link - after all, who could know better how to write Columbo stories than the man who created the character? If you enjoy the character on television - or even if you've never seen him - you'll enjoy these stories.