THE COUNTERFEIT GENTLEMAN FILE [The Federal Agent Mysteries] by Clarence Budington Kelland

“Clarence Budington Kelland is master of the slick, swift, entertaining yarn.” —The New York Times

“His mysteries are on the ball.” —Criminal Record

This slightly offbeat Golden Age mystery, filled with Kelland’s trademark zany dialogue and eccentric, vivid characters, is sure to please readers of Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner.

It all begins in 1956, when analytical Jick Roche notices something odd about Artemus Baldwin, a guest at a society party: although he seems to be a gentleman, he occasionally slips into gangster slang. What Jick doesn’t know is that Artemus is a Secret Service agent masquerading as a gangster who is masquerading as a gentleman. Jick’s suspicions are already aroused, but they definitely spike when Artemus finds a corpse with a money roll stuffed in his mouth—and she sees Artemus slip one of the bills into his pocket.

The more time Jick spends with Artemus, the deeper her reservations—and her curiosity—grow. Her analytical mind knows something doesn’t add up. Determined to penetrate his secrets, Jick finds herself falling in love with Artemus even as he proves to be an unsettling puzzle of a man.

She decides to introduce him to her eccentric family, including her oddball father and Pomfret Lionel, her geeky kid brother who, at twelve, can spot the difference between a counterfeit bill and the genuine article at twenty paces. They introduce him to a sophisticated, widely-traveled Southern aristocrat and his rather outgoing daughter. Meanwhile, Artemus has suspicions of his own. He knows one of the families must be crooked—but which one?

When word gets around the underworld that a famous gunman is in town on the lam, job offers begin to pile up for Artemus. He knows some are sincere and others traps. When he finds himself hijacked by two local mobsters and being taken for a ride, the Secret Service man realizes he has slipped up somewhere. And what is he to make of the smooth-talking local attorney who orders him to help scam the Southern Colonel? Or the celebrated but lecherous local painter? Or the aging identical twins who appear to operate as one man, and are identical in everything—including criminality? Or Porque the Egg, the ratty little gangland “gofer” with the strange way of talking who saves Artemus’ life more than once and seems to be his only true friend?

Meanwhile, Jick can’t help noticing inconsistencies in Artemus’ story, the shady nature of his associates, and his attraction to Jennifer Beauregard—a femme fatale to whom that label may apply literally. But when she finds her own family in danger, Jick is certain Artemus is the only man she can trust—if he doesn’t wind up on a slab first, caught in the crossfire between trigger-happy mobsters and two powerful, compelling women.

For a Secret Service agent, life on the job is never dull. And neither is Clarence Budington Kelland’s fast-moving mystery filed with swindle, murder and a powerful love that finds its own way against the odds.

The Counterfeit Gentleman is one of the Federal Agent Mysteries. Kelland was asked to write a series of novels giving people a behind-the-scenes look at what different types of federal law enforcement agents –the FBI, Postal Service, Park rangers, Secret Service, etc.—did to earn their keep. He received unprecedented access to offices, procedures, agents and files.

“Urbane entertainment!” —Kirkus Reviews

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About the Author

Clarence Budington Kelland was author of nearly 100 novels of mystery and romantic suspense, had enough careers for several men: attorney, reporter, manufacturer of clothespins, director of a major newspaper group, and more. Kelland became best known as a fiction writer, penning some 100 novels, and selling them as serials to the biggest and highest paying magazines of the time—like The Saturday Evening Post, The American Magazine, Colliers, and Cosmopolitan. Many were immortalized on film, of which the romantic suspense comedy and Oscar-winner, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, is undoubtedly the most famous. Kelland appeared alongside Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner in the same magazines, but was the most popular of the four. The New York Times described Kelland’s novels as “lively stories, designed to prick the jaded palate, that keep readers pleasantly entertained” and noted that “Kelland demonstrates the emotions of his lovers with a psychological penetration.” Kirkus Reviews called his novels “Bright and breezy, with plus appeal for murder-mystery addicts.” His magazine publishers kept besieging him for more novels because every time they serialized one of them (typically in 6-8 installments), circulation shot upward. Kelland obliged, and produced far more each year than his publisher (Harper and Row) could keep up with, leaving more than three dozen unpublished in book form when he died. His inimitable characters, trademark dialogue and deftly plotted stories, according to Harper, “made him an American tradition and won him more loyal, devoted readers than almost any other living author.” Kelland, as ever self-depreciating, simply described himself as “the best second-rate writer in the world.” His legions of fans, old and new, would likely disagree. There was nothing second-rate about his work.