Predictably, The Flagrant Years left me wanting to read more Samuel Hopkins Adams. Less predictably, it mostly made me want to reread books of his I’d already read. So I thought I’d take advantage of the impulse and finally review Average Jones, which I’ve now read three times.
Average Jones comes by his nickname fairly — his full name is Adrian Van Reypen Egerton Jones — and he’s the star of a series of linked short stories in which he solves mysteries having to do with advertisements. His career as an advertising expert (or Ad-Visor, as his cards say) begins as a hobby and at the suggestion of his friend Mr. Waldemar, editor of an important newspaper. Waldemar and another friend, Bertram, act as occasional sidekicks, but Jones is the only character who appears in every story.
The mysteries are clever and unusual, although Adams does have a disconcerting fondness for putting dead dogs in his stories. The mysteries mostly take place within the five boroughs, but one takes place in Baltimore and another in Baja California. I’m not sure which story is my favorite, but I know which advertisement is:
WANTED—Ten thousand loathly black beetles, by
A leaseholder who contracted to leave a house in the
same condition as he found it. Ackroyd,
100 W. Sixteenth St. New York
I don’t know what else to say about it — it’s just thoroughly delightful, in an unassuming, cheerful kind of way. It’s a good example of Samuel Hopkins Adams and of humorous mystery stories. If you’ve been wondering where to start with Adams, this might be the place.