Brett Halliday knew how to catch a reader’s attention from the get-go. The book begins with Michael Shayne stopping for a drink in a small Florida town. A beautiful young woman walks out to him and then two hoods drag him out of the bar, beat up and nearly run him down with their car.
Shayne gets thrown in jail after blowing his top in a confrontation with the local police force but hangs around town determined to find out who the woman was that fingered him and why she did it. Along the way, Shayne discovers that she was an amnesiac who stumbled into town and was supposed to have been taken back to her father in Orlando. Shayne discovers the story was a lie and to find the truth he has to untangle a web of crime and corruption.
The book buzzes along and is a fast paced story filled with plenty of suspense and great plot twists and action throughout most of it. The only flaw in the pacing is that the book does slow down about 3/4 of the way through before wrapping up strong with the last chapter and a half.
The book also gives some keen insights into social attitudes of the mid-1950s and deals with a hot topic of today. Even though Shayne is no huge moralist, he reflected the values of his time in a way that’s intriguing or sad depending on your point of view.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
The copy I read plus another Michael Shayne mystery are available on request with the first donation received of $50 or more for listeners in the US or Canada. See details here.
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Note: I picked up several Michael Shayne novels as a give away for our listener support campaign. Shayne was popular in other medias including radio version starring Wally Maher and Jeff Chandler, film version with Lloyd Nolan and Hugh Beaumont, and a television version featuring Richard Denning. I decided to give the books a whirl while flying from San Francisco to St. Louis so that I’d know of what I speak when we begin doing Michael Shayne on our program. Below is my review.
A gorgeous woman checks into a Miami hotel room and then vanishes. Her husband arrives five days later for a surprise visit and finds her missing and is outraged the hotel didn’t do anything about it until now. He turns to Michael Shayne to find her.
Murder by Proxy (1962) is a short engaging book that does what its supposed to. It’s been out of print for years and no one’s likely to bring it back, nor unlike a Philip Marlowe book is anyone going to be told to read it. Social commentary is limited. What were left with a good solid hard boiled mystery novel that uses just the right of description to paints meaningful and evocative word pictures that powerfully tell oft the missing “stacked” woman.
The mystery is cleverly written and is a true puzzle on both a physical and psychological level. The obvious explanation adopted by the police is that the woman simply stepped out, but she seemed to really be in love with her husband. The husband may have had some motive for killing her, but why would he step out on such a beautiful wife plus Shayne thought his concern for his wife is sincere. The puzzle and the chase are satisfying with just enough red herrings along the way.
While not a classic, this is good solid mystery mystery writing at its finest.