ROBERT COLBY – Secret of the Second Door. Gold Medal #855, paperback original; 1st printing, February 1959. Wildside Press, softcover, 2002. Prologue Books, softcover, 2013. TV Adapation: An episode of Hawaiian Eye, 9 December 1959 (season 1, episode 10; same title).

   Of the seventeen paperback originals Robert Colby wrote under his own name in the 50s, 60s and and early 70s, five were published by Gold Medal, five by Monarch, four by Ace, two from Avon, and one from Pyramid. (He also paired up to write one of the Nick Carter books done by Award in 1972.) Given my opinion of the quality of books from these publishers, to me this suggests that his career was more a case of wide variability rather than versatility.

   It’s the first by Colby that I’ve read from any publisher, though, so I know that until I read more, a statement such as the one above should be taken with a grain of salt, maybe even two.

   As for the book at hand, however, I was moderately disappointed. It starts out just fine. A guy running an apartment complex in Florida gets an anonymous clipping in the mail, telling him that the husband of his ex-flame in New York City has just died, under rather unusual circumstances.

   Does he go running off to see her? He’s carrying a torch that he can barely lift over his head. You bet he does. It turns out that before he died in an automobile accident the dead man had come home from he said was a poker game with a suitcase filled with exactly $200,000 which is now missing.

   It doesn’t sound like the winnings at a poker game, the former girlfriend says. Between seeing the lady again and the promise of a share of the loot to boot, Neil Shepherd agrees to help her.

   So far, so good, but the book goes off in its own direction, as Shepherd has his mind filled with thoughts of the money than he does the lady, which is why he showed up in Manhattan in the first place. And of course the real owners of the $200,000 want their say in the matter, not to mention the lady friend, who has secrets of her own.

   But instead of a bunch of clever guys, they turn out to be no more than gang of stupid, vicious thugs, and a whole lot of stupid, vicious things happen in the second half of the book, which is otherwise pretty much a letdown. Worse, several key points of the plot creak worse than any badly oiled door you ever heard, including on the radio.

   Well, maybe more than moderately disappointing.

   I’m not exactly sure how the title fits in. It may be figurative, that Shepherd is given a second chance with the lady friend. But as that aspect of the story doesn’t pan out the way I thought it would, there are a couple of real-life doors that figure into the tale, briefly but significantly, one more than the other.