Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Mirabilis Diamond: Review

John Steele is just your average private eye. He's got a run-down office and a secretary who often threatens to walk out, but who is loyal to a fault and can't help thinking that this time he'll actually earn a fee (and she'll finally get paid). In The Mirabilis Diamond (1945 by Jerome Odlum) he's got a mysterious client with two tough-guy body guards who doesn't want Steele to know where he lives, but does want him to track down an archaeologist who has just dug up a diamond worth a million bucks. There will be several attacks on his life. He will be framed for a couple of murders. And a gorgeous little dame will cling to him, call him "Johnny" (which he hates), and insist that all she wants is to find her father (the archaeologist) and doesn't have any interest in any silly old diamond (insert eyelash-batting here). 

When Steele arrives in Baja California, the last known locale of the archaeologist and his diamond, he finds that he's not the only one looking for the man and the gem. In fact, people hot on the trail keep popping in and out like regular little jacks-in-the-boxes. Or like something I've seen before...maybe...The Maltese Falcon. Yeah. Like that. Only not as good.

That's the verdict I'm left with on this one. It strikes me as a knock-off of Hammett's terrific novel. You've got your fabulous, legendary treasure, your tough good guy, your not-so-on-the-level clients, your itchy-trigger-finger sidekick to the chief treasure hunter (or in this case, itchy-knife-throwing-hand), and the dubious gorgeous dame making eyes at our hero. Does the story play out exactly like Falcon? Well, no. But it's definitely crafted in that pattern and unfortunately it pales in comparison. It's got a decent plot line and Steele is actually a little more three-dimensional than a lot of hard-boiled private eyes. This brings it in at a solid ★★, which--had the plot line not been so well-worn--might have ranked higher. I'd definitely be interested in giving Odlum another try--particularly if any of his other novels feature John Steele.

This counts for the "Skull" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

"Like the Maltese Falcon, only not as good'... yep, I'm out. :-)