Book Report: Dark Bahama by Peter Cheyney (1950)

Dark Bahama cover

I’m breaking with tradition here a little bit: although I read this book as part of a Detective Book Club volume, I’m breaking it out to review individually (but I don’t count it as a book I’ve read this year until I finish the volume, of course–my accounting rules are as esoteric as GAAP).

This book is part of a series, the “Johnny Vallon” series–although that’s rather strange, as “Johnny Vallon” only makes an appearance at the very beginning as he meets a couple of the characters that do most of the sleuthing and sets them into motion. Maybe he’s like Charlie in Charlie’s Angels throughout the series.

At any rate, the alternate title is I’ll Bring Her Back, and it centers on an old flame of Johnny Vallon who asks for help. She’s promised to retrieve from Dark Bahama the ne’er-do-well daughter of a widow. Vallon can’t go himself, so he sends a man named Isles, kind of a ne’er-do-well gumshoe sort. When Isles gets to the island, he finds a dead body and is suspected in the murder, and as he works to clear himself, he finds that the job entails more than he bargained for. Enter Guelvada, a Belgian/English espionage type who takes over the book and gets some papers from under the nose of the other side.

Well. I mean, it starts out a crime/hard-boiled detective thing and then it turns into an espionage thing, and the main character isn’t the main character halfway through the book. Instead, the guy we’d rooted for falls into a sort of gofer role to the hardened espionage agent. Well.

The style, strangely, is English pulp. I can see where it’s trying to have the paperback sensitivities of American fiction, but the style is very poor for it. I figured it out later: it’s the prepositional phrases that blunt the punch.

For example:

Once again, he had a vague sense of annoyance at the sight of the overturned chair.


In twenty minutes he arrived at the apex of the two roads. Immediately in front of him was the broad State highway. Twenty yards to his right, parked in the middle of the side road, was a State Trooper’s car. By the light of the dashboard Guelvada could see two men seated in the car…nearest to him the driver and on the right in the passenger seat a State Trooper with a submachine-gun on his knees.

Zzzzzzz….. Huh? What? Wrap it up?

It is an interesting artifact if nothing else, but I don’t think I’ll hunt down the rest of the series or the related Quayle series.

Books mentioned in this review:

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