Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Marked for Murder – Brett Halliday

©1945 Dell, New York

As a mystery reader there are a few standards that I like to get to from time to time. Hammett is a must; Chandler is excellent to read occasionally; it’s nice to enjoy Poirot or Miss Marple once in awhile. So there are some standards I like to pick up when I can find them. I don’t always like them, though I know I ought to try them. I’ll admit that I’ve never made it through one case with Perry Mason, though I’ve tried two or three. But until 2008 I hadn’t had the opportunity for several great detective stories. As readers will recall, toward the end of 2008 I finally took the opportunity to join the 87th Precinct in a case or two and look forward to more book fairs to find more of those good cases. Also, as the year drew to a close and I was looking for a good relaxing mystery, I discovered my first Mike Shayne story in a stack of book fair finds. Halliday’s Shayne has been one of those characters, like Hammett’s Nick Charles or Sam Spade that everyone should at least try out if you want to read mysteries.

What with the holiday bustle and the endless travel that accompanies it, I took a bit longer to read Marked for Murder than I would have desired, but here’s what I found:

Mike Shayne is all he’s cracked up to be. He’s a quick thinker, a man’s man (not to mention a ladies’ man). He solves the case with dogged persistence that is sometimes lacking in the police. In this case, his best friend, Tim Rourke, is stirring up a Miami Beach hornet’s nest as he reports a series of murders that seems to be connected to the burgeoning gambling racket on the Beach. Each of three victims has been seduced away from winning tables by a gorgeous blond, and subsequently found dead minus the winnings and with .32 bullets managing the murder at close range.

For all the trouble he’s causing with his stories, Rourke is found shot in his apartment. It doesn’t hurt that a number of blonds have been seen visiting, or that he is known to have an affinity for blonds. At the news of his buddy’s misfortune, Shayne hops the first train from New Orleans to work with his friends at the Miami Police Department to the chagrin of the Miami Beach Police Chief. Amid the incompetence (or lack of initiative) of the police, Shayne investigates by following leads that the Chief Painter wants to ignore. . . and finds the killer in the sea of blonds.

Lovers of mystery stories will like this one. I know I did. The dated language and setting are easy to overlook because the characters and the plot itself are so enjoyable. Halliday doesn’t waste time with intricate plot twists, but instead lets us watch while his private detective methodically tries every piece of the puzzle until it fits.

Brett Halliday, Mike Shayne, and Marked for Murder, get three and one-half stars for a fun story. I’m looking forward to more outings with this master detective.

Benjamin Potter, January 6, 2009

1 comment:

George said...

Mike Shayne is another one of those almost forgotten private eyes. The early titles are the best. The later titles were ghost-written. The big attraction for a lot of collectors were the eye-popping covers (like the one on MARKED FOR MURDER) by Robert McGinnis.

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