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