Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dividend on Death: Review

So...I said recently that I'm not much into hardboiled detective novels. Yet here I am again with Brett Halliday's Dividend on Death (1939). And not a bad little detective novel at that. Yes, we've got the tough-talking detective, and the curvy dames, and the over-the-top bad guys, but somehow Halliday makes it all work.

Dividend on Death is Halliday's first Michael Shayne novel. It doesn't really read like a first effort though. Shayne is well-developed as a character and it is obvious from his interactions with other characters that he has a firmly established background. He hasn't "just appeared" here in print. So, while this may be our first taste of Shayne at work, this isn't his first case.

In this story, Michael Shayne winds up with more clients than you would think he could keep track of. First up, Phyllis Brighton who wants Shayne to tell her she's not crazy and going to kill her mother like "everyone" says. She hires Shayne to protect her from herself. Then along comes Dr. Pedique, one of the folks telling Phyllis that she's crazy. He hires the detective to protect Mrs. Brighton from her crazy daughter. Next, Roy Gordon who wants Shayne to find an art critic and prevent said critic from delivering a painting to the Brighton household. And then there's Monty Montrose who also has an interest in the painting and wants our hero to guarantee the painting winds up in the hands of Brighton. Finally, we have Police Inspector Peter Painter who will eventually hand over $2,500 in reward money when Shayne hands him the solution to this convoluted case on a silver platter.

Somehow, Shayne manages to juggle all these various client balls without any of them bumping into each other. And has time to figure out who really did kill Mrs. Brighton and the beautiful nurse and why they're trying to pin the rap on Phyllis. It's a fun ride for any mystery lover and I would expect those who favor the hardboiled school to especially enjoy this one. Halliday can write and he delivers the tough-guy detective very effectively. I enjoyed this one much more than the A. A. Fair book that I just recently finished. Three and 3/4 stars...almost a four.

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