Fred Fitch is a man who is both pure of heart and substance but utterly credulous. If there is a scam operating anywhere – his rooming house where the General needs a loan to print his revelation of the secret history of the government, the street where the Little Sisters of the Poor are raising funds for the homeless, or just about anywhere in between – Fred finds it or it finds Fred to the same uncertain end.
A brief preface cites previous works on pollution and briefly states purpose. Chapter 1 discusses the pollution chef concept. Toxins are brought into protected bodies of water to interact with each other in such a way as to bind dangerous chemicals or break them down into non-toxic or less toxic compounds. A science to create such soups and where…
Fred even has his own contact, Reilly, on the Bunco Squad at Headquarters, who adds weekly to the enormous file. But Fred's complicated life becomes overly complicated when a lawyer turns up on the scene to tell him that his late Uncle Matt has willed him $300,000. Fred has never before heard of Uncle Matt. Along with the inheritance comes the devoted Gertie Divine, Uncle Matt's old friend who is all too willing to become Fred's new friend, and a host of other mysterious characters who are willing to chum up with Fred in their bid for the $300,000, all of whom feel their claim to be more valid than Fred's.
This otherwise comic caper turns desperate when the pursuers begin to make serious attempts on Fred's life and Gertie becomes just a little too devoted. Westlake's brilliant and original picaresque story was awarded the MWA Edgar as best novel of 1967.
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