Book Report: The Careless Corpse by Brett Halliday (1961)

Funny how the periods overlap; this book, written within a year of The End of the Night, is definitely a throwback to earlier detective fiction and the MacDonald book foreruns the more modern mystery (as does all of MacDonald’s work). Sure, this book is one in a series with a two-fisted action hero whose name graced a mystery magazine (Michael Shayne), but MacDonald covered that series thing with Travis McGee, and the latter more closely resembles the work of the other MacDonald (Ross) than the hardboiled school (Chandler, Hammett, et cetera).

This book details with the theft of an emerald necklace from a rich man with a boozing, thrill seeking wife; after time, he gets a letter blackmailing him about his fraudulently placing an insurance claim on a replica necklace. Shayne comes in to wreck many plans, including some to arm counterrevolutionaries in Cuba.

The last bit is the most amusing of all: written right after the revolution, the two-fisted American PI is pro-Castro and some tough speechifying defends the revolution and says that Castro’s not necessarily a communist. Of course, a year later, this book would be proven wrong. However, the political framework doesn’t take away from the two-fisted action, so it was forgiveable. And amusing.

I don’t know if I’ve read a Michael Shayne novel since high school; it seems to me I might have, and I really ought to get more. The problem with these books is that the early 1960s cheap paperbacks are deteriorating for the most part in the wild; this one had several pages loose from the spine, including one that the previous owner had put back in backwards (so I read the even page before I read the odd page–it made more sense when I flipped them to the proper position). It would be nice if someone were to bring out reprints or collections, but I suppose Shayne is too old school for that. So I’ll continue to be very careful, only opening the book 25 degrees, and keeping cats off the lap while reading.

Books mentioned in this review: