ffb: The Uncomplaining Corpses

this is the 128th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

The Uncomplaining Corpses by Brett Halliday (Davis Dresser) © 1940, Dell 1957 mass market paperback, mystery, 3rd Mike Shayne. This Dell edition of the third in the series has a fine Robert McGinnis cover, one of my favorites.

Davis Dresser created the pseudonym Brett Halliday and the series character Michael Shayne. He wrote the series through 1958, after which the bulk were written by Robert Terrall, with some by Ryerson Johnson and Dennis Lynds.

Mike Shayne has gotten married. Just three weeks ago he and Phyllis (that’s her, on the cover) married, had a honeymoon and are now settled into their new place in the same apartment hotel Mike has lived in for years as a Miami P.I. The only difference is the new place is on the floor above the old one. But the lazy honeymoon days and nights can only go on for so long, and soon the phone rings with an offer of a job.

It’s not a job Shayne wants: a phony set-up with breaking and entering, not to steal anything but to show an insurance company that there was a break-in, so the client, realtor Harold Thrip, can collect on jewelry that he’ll say was taken though he still has in his possession. Insurance fraud, pure and simple.

Shayne turns him down flat, but later decides to send a hard luck case, a young fellow trying to mostly keep his nose clean, to do the job just so he can pick up the paycheck. The problem is when the fellow goes to the house and “breaks in”, he goes upstairs as instructed and things go very wrong.

The fellow is promptly shot and killed. Nearby is the body of Mrs. Thrip, who has been strangled. The police are called, the “robber” has now become a wife’s killer and the husband, who says he heard a noise, saw the man leaning over his wife, apparently having just strangled her to death, is justified in shooting him. All wrapped up so nicely.

Except, of course it’s not. Shayne knows the young friend wouldn’t have done what he’s accused of, but there are some other pretty obvious suspects. As is usual in a Mike Shayne novel, the solution doesn’t come easy. He’s roughed up a couple of times, and when Miami Chief of Police Painter finds out Shayne sent the fellow to the house, he thinks he’s got Shayne right where he wants him, strung up on an accessory charge, striped of his license, in jail. Oh yes, Painter crows with delight. But none of that happens.

Instead, Shayne investigates. His wife, thinking she can help (as if this comes as a surprise), is kidnapped and threatened. No one knows where she is. Then another murder is done. By the time the third body has hit the floor, Shayne knows who and how but he still has to prove it. The plotting on this one was somewhat predictable, but I always enjoy these Shayne novels and that held true here.  

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More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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15 Responses to ffb: The Uncomplaining Corpses

  1. Really enjoyed the review Richard – it’s been literally decades since I read one of the Mike Shayne books, probably because I always found the plots a bit predictable – mind you, I’m not sure if I was reading books by Dresser or by his ghsts, so … Didn’t Bill Pronzini also write one of the novels or at least anovella?

  2. I read those DELL Mike Shaynes when I was a teenager. The Bob McGinnis covers reeled me in, but the action-paced stories kept me reading them. And, I couldn’t wait until I was 18 to taste Mike Shayne’s favorite drink: cognac!

  3. I want to read James Reasoner’s Shayne stories.

  4. Jeff Meyerson says:

    You know these PI wives don’t have a great life expectancy.

  5. Richard says:

    Sergio, I enjoy these books, and the Shell Scott books by Prather, they are fun, fast reading. At one time I preferred the Scott books, but not I like the Shayne ones better. Predictable plots are okay sometimes. Ask anyone who reads westerns!

    I don’t know if Crider ever wrote any Shayne, but I do know James Reasoner wrote some for the magazine.

  6. Richard says:

    George, if you’d been in another state you would have had to wait until you were 21 to buy liquor. I tried cognac one or twice, but didn’t like it that much. I preferred Jack Daniels. Mostly though If I drank it was just beer.

  7. Richard says:

    Charles, me too. By the way, do you have a favorite Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida panhandle detective series?

  8. Richard says:

    Jeff, you’re right, they don’t.

  9. John says:

    I should go back to Shayne. The only one I’ve read so far is the very first, DIVIDEND ON DEATH. There’s a dog racing mystery in the Shayne series I’ve always wanted to read — TICKETS TO DEATH. I liked reading about Miami at the tail end of the 30s. Little did he know how Florida would become a hotbed for fictional sleuths in years to come. Interesting how he was one of the few married PIs. Was he the only married one?

  10. Richard says:

    John, I haven’t read that first one, it’s one I don’t have. Florida changes around Shayne as the series progresses. As for married PIs, I think Bill Pronzini’s Nameless got married for a while later in the series, and I’m sure there are more I just can think of off the top. I’ll bet Jeff knows.

    There was a pretty good dog racing mystery by Patricia Moyes in the Inspector Henry Tibbett series, The Curious Affair of the Third Dog (Inspector Henry Tibbett Mystery, #12). That’s a series I really have liked reading over the years and sometimes go back to.

  11. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Rick, I think the Geoffrey Norman series about Morgan Hunt (three books that I know of) were set in the Florida panhandle, to kibitz on your question.

  12. Richard says:

    Jeff, you’re right, and I remember liking those a good deal.

  13. Art Scott says:

    I used to throw the book against the wall (if it didn’t have a McGinnis cover) whenever the detective’s wife/girlfriend/secretary got kidnapped while being helpful. Cheapest rachet-up-the-suspense cliche ever. After Dresser killed off Phyllis, secretary Lucy Hamilton assumed the role, in I’m sure more than one book.

  14. Richard says:

    Art, yes Lucy sort of filled the role, and she got kidnapped and also pouched Shayne to take cases on more than one occasion. But the wife angle is the worst. I think she only last one more book (maybe two, but don’t tell me).

  15. Pingback: Classic crime in the blogosphere: November 2013 | Past Offences

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