Category: Michael Shayne

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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EP2278: That Hammer Guy: The More You Kill The Simpler It Gets

Ted de CorsiaA fight manager friend of Hammer’s is found murdered in his apartment.

Original Air Date: April 20, 1954

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Book Review: The Private Practice of Michael Shayne


The Michael Shayne that appeared in his first book, Dividend on Death has little resemblance to the character as he’d come to be known in film, television, and future books. In the second book, The Private Private Practice of Michael Shayne, the later character begins to emerge.

The book features the close friendship and partnership between Shayne and reporter Tim Rourke, which was a hallmark of the series. In addition, Shayne shows a bit of character and humanity in trying to ward off an ambitious young lawyer from an unethical deal. The barely grown Phyllis Brighton returns from the first book and Shayne steps in (against her wishes) to save her from crooked gamblers. There’s a bit of reluctant romance that begins to develop between Shayne and Phyllis and it’s handled nicely and believably.

To be clear, he’s not Philip Marlowe, certainly not as mopey and world-weary. The character is plenty of fun and has a lighter, comedic flare. The plot of this book was used as one of the major inspirations for the first Shayne movie starring Lloyd Nolan, Michael Shayne, Private Detective, and the movie and book track pretty well. The result is a Michael Shayne who manages to be comical but not foolish, and tough without being abrasive.

The story is well-plotted, even if it’s not particularly innovative. The humor works a couple twists including Shayne finding a way to get himself out of a murder charge but later outsmarts himself when he tries to mess around with the murder gun. Given all the evidence tampering both in this book and the previous one, it was satisfying to see a consequence to it for Shayne.

This still isn’t quite the Michael Shayne of later books, but it’s a huge step forward for the character.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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Book Review: Dividend on Death


Dividend on Death is the first Michael Shayne novel by Brett Halliday. In it, eighteen-year-old rich girl Phyllis Brighton tries to hire Shayne to protect her mother by watching Phyllis to ensure she doesn’t kill her. A psychologist wants Shayne to work for him for a similar reason. However, the mother is dead by the time Shayne arrives, and he takes on the task of sorting things out.

Having read many of the later Shayne books from the 1950s, I have to admit  this book surprised me. The professional detective who is assisted by a loyal secretary and a reporter friend is nowhere to be seen in this book. Rather, he comes off as a bit of a poor man’s Sam Spade mixed with the roughneck redhead private eye that inspired Halliday to write Shayne. You don’t see much of the charm that made the best Lloyd Nolan Michael Shayne films so enjoyable. This book does explain what might have inspired the worst Nolan film, Dressed to Kill. In, Dividend on Death, Shayne is the uncharming, evidence-destroying oaf of that picture. There’s a sense that Halliday is trying too hard to be hard-boiled in his first detective novel.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. The plot is quite intricate and the solution is clever. The story has some good moments that foreshadow the type of Shayne stories that would come in the future, but it’s not quite there yet. If you’ve read Shayne books before, it’s an interesting curiosity as to how the character began, but if you’re new to the character, I don’t recommend this as it may give a distorted view of what the series will be like.

Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0

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EP2019: Michael Shayne: The Case of the Queen of Narcotics

Vinton Hayworth
A father asks Mike to help his drug-addicted son who put him in the hospital.

Original Air Date: April 3, 1953

Support the show monthly at patreon.greatdetectives.net

Support the show on a one-time basis at http://support.greatdetectives.net.

Mail a donation to: Adam Graham, PO Box 15913, Boise, Idaho 83715
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