Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Call for Michael Shayne: Review

On the night of June 8, Arthur Devlin, a quiet and unassuming insurance man, went to a bon voyage party. His bon voyage party--as he prepared to leave on a two-week Caribbean cruise. A number of his friends got together to wish him well and to drink to his health and good travels. They all had a great many drinks. When Art wakes up on the morning of June 20th, he finds himself in a room he has never seen before, in a set of clothes that he would never have picked out for himself, and no memory whatsoever of the past twelve days. Further investigation reveals a beauty of a goose egg on his head.

As he tries to gather his thoughts and sort out his last memory (that would be of the party), he notices another man in the room. But he can't ask him any questions....because that man is quite dead. With blood on his unfamiliar clothes and a blackjack nearby, it looks like Art may have lost control as well as his memory. Then there's the strange woman named Marge who calls the room, addresses him as "Joey, Darling," and wants to know if he got the money off of "that louse, Skid." When Art hesitates over his answers, she asks, "Did you kill him?" Well, that's what he wants to know.

He gets out of the hotel as quick as he can and heads home. He calls up his friend and doctor to come help him--hoping that if he really did kill a man during his black-out period that he won't be held responsible for what he did during a bout of amnesia. Dr. Thompson, while he wants to believe his friend, can't quite make his knowledge of amnesia fit the story Art has to tell. He suggest that Art go away for a bit and let it all blow over--after all who would connect a mild-mannered insurance man with a murder in that dive of a hotel? But Art is determined to get to the bottom of it all. He remembers a red-headed private detective who once said, "Murder is my business" and asks Mike Shayne to find out what really happened during those twelve days. But will he like what Shayne discovers?

Call for Michael Shayne is another trip into the private eye world for me. I don't make these trips often, but the Shayne series by Brett Halliday is always enjoyable. This was another fun romp and it's always good to watch Shayne one-up that annoying Miami Beach Chief of Police, Peter Painter. You'd think that Painter would learn that Shayne generally delivers the goods--and it's never the solution that the Chief has selected. This is a fast-paced story that I easily finished in a couple of hours. Halliday's descriptions of the Miami area are deft and transport the reader direct from 2015 to the beach city of the late 1940s/early 50s. My one disappointment with the book was that I spotted the main villain right off--others with a fair amount of detective fiction under their belt will probably do so as well. But Halliday had a second surprise lined up that made the ride worthwhile.  ★★ for a solid afternoon's entertainment.

First published in 1949, this fulfills the "Author with same first or last initial as you" (or in this case both initials) square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.


1 comment:

fredamans said...

Amnesia or being set-up? I'm intrigued. Great review!