Solve It Again, Sam

Four doughty veterans of the fictional crime wars demonstrate why experience counts

Repetition is honored as a necessary principle in the music of Bach, the spin of prayer wheels and the effective swinging of a baseball bat over the long season and into the play-offs, but not in the matter of cop-and-crime stories. This is unfair. "You're reading another one of his?" the addict's spouse derides, leaving unspoken the remainder of the gibe ("rather than learning Italian or visiting the sick and aged").

"Just so, O moon," the addict replies.

"But they're all the same."

"Just so." And why not? When the 20th crime fable by a skilled old pro turns up on...

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