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Zero Cool
John Lange
Originally published 1969
Hard Case Crime 2008
221 pages paperback

Zero Cool is not up to par with the quality mystery I have come to expect from Hard Case Crime. This novel by John Lange meanders along with an unbelievable story line and plot elements that are, to be generous, fanciful.

Radiologist Peter Ross takes a well-deserved vacation in Spain. He accidentally hits on the first babe he meets, immediately gets warned off an upcoming event -an autopsy he will be asked to perform– by a mysterious character, and gets involved with the babe who just happens to be connected to the mystery at hand.

Basically, a valuable emerald is going to be hidden in a body while Ross does the autopsy needed to clear the corpse for U.S. Customs. After the jewel are The Professor, a man who believes he can mathematically predict the future, a nebbish Spanish count, and another bad guy named Carrini.

They all believe the good doctor is in cahoots with the others and knows what is going on. He is not and he does not.

The three gangs consecutively kidnap Ross, interrogate him sometimes using good old truth serum sometimes common sense, and release him thinking he will lead them to the emerald.

There are just too many unbelievable elements in Zero Cool and people double-triple-crossing other each other to keep a mystery novel fan going. I was more than generous with John Lange and plodded along but drew the line when the count planned to kill off Ross, the babe, and the many people after him using a scent-trained falcon after a cohort surreptitiously sprayed everybody with the special scent.

Geez, even the most fanciful James Bond villain wouldn’t go that far.

Factoid: the babe on the cover of Zero Cool is reading another John Lange Hard Case Crime mystery, Grave Descend. Both covers were done by Gregory Manchess. Neat trick.