Monday, November 4, 2013

Shell Game: Review

A shell-gathering vacation in Florida nearly lands Bill Stuart in the local jail...and before he's done, he may wind up in the morgue instead.  

All Stuart wants is to spend some time on the beach--collecting rare shells and admiring the lovely scenery (of the bathing beauty variety).  He gets more than he bargained for when he discovers a beautiful young woman hiding under a fishing pier near his favorite stretch of beach.  She tells him a rather fishy story (all in keeping with her locale), but he doesn't let it phase him.  He offers her a ride back to town and she begs to drive his convertible.

Thinking nothing of it, Stuart agrees and soon they're off on a wild ride.  A mysterious gray sedan starts following them and Valerie swerves and dodges and drives the wrong way down one way streets to lose it.  She pulls into a bus station and manages to disappear before Stuart can ask too many questions.  From there on, Bill has beautiful girls and corpses popping in and out of his life like so many jack-in-the-boxes.  When he tries to get the local police chief interested in the missing girl and the mysterious sedan, the Chief is more interested in the traffic violations his little green convertible has collected.

Even the high-powered investigator from up North, doesn't seem very interested in Stuart's story, so he goes on a little hunt of his own.  It leads him back to the beach and a cabin near the pier where he met Valerie.  And the body of a recently murdered man.  The Chief and his northern counterpart show up just in time to try and fit Stuart for the part of first murderer.  But when the few stray prints in the place don't match Stuart's and DO match Valerie's (via a compact that she happened to leave with Stuart), the Chief gets much more interested in the missing girl. Stuart knows he didn't do it and he doesn't believe Valerie did--but can he find the missing girl, the mysterious sedan, and the right culprit before he winds up in jail or worse?

This is another 1950s, fast-paced, humorous mystery with a B-movie feel.  There's the hometown cop who doesn't quite know what to do when the crimes are worse than someone feeding slugs into the parking meters.  There are tough, gangster-types.  There's the hapless hero who seems to be suspected no matter what he does...and he does it all for the sake of a beautiful dame.  Lots of fun, lots of hi-jinks, and lots of misdirection.  Three stars for a nice, enjoyable read.

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