Book Review: The Uncomplaining Corpses

The Uncomplaining Corpses is the third Michael Shayne novel and finds him having married the nineteen-year-old Phyllis he’d helped in the previous two novels. A rich man asks him to send a man to steal his wife’s jewel case in exchange for a thousand dollars that will be inside the case, so the rich man can keep the jewels and collect the insurance money. Shayne isn’t interested in participating in insurance fraud, but an ex-con needing money comes by. Shayne has the idea of sending the ex-con out to steal the $1000 without taking the jewel case, thus ripping off the unscrupulous rich man.

However, things go horribly wrong. The ex-con is shot by the husband who claims he found him standing over his wife’s body. Now Shayne’s license is at risk and to save it he has to find the killer.

While I thought in the first Shayne book, Halliday was trying to create a knock off of Sam Spade, this feels like a different spin on the Thin Man. Halliday is pretty effective. Phyllis is likable and precocious and willing to do what it takes to get her husband, including putting herself in harms way, perfectly consistent with the way she was written in the previous book. Shayne is perfectly relatable as a newly married man getting accustomed to married life and happy with his life. He’s not a caricature nor does he have that, “Newlywed but steadfastly refusing to be happy” feeling of Philip Marlowe in Poodle Springs. The book also has some fun moments and zaniness in the solution.

However, the book’s failing is that it’s cast of suspects are completely forgettable stock characters. The mystery is not one of Shayne’s smartest, and Shayne behaves too much like a cartoon, particularly when he’s manhandling the Miami Chief of Police Peter Painter.

Still, this is an enjoyable little mystery that, despite its failings, offers a satisfying conclusion.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5.0

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