BRETT HALLIDAY – Marked for Murder. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1945. Paperback reprints include: Dell 222, mapback; Dell 503, mapback; Dell D291, June 1959; Dell 5386, Jan 1963 (cover art: McGinnis); Dell 5386, new printing, June 1968.

   The copy I just read is the one from January 1963 with the cover art done by Robert McGinnis, seen here to the right. He may have done covers for the other printings, but if so my records do not currently show it.

   As for the book itself, it’s a good one, and I will tell you this much up front and right away. When you read this book, you won’t be able to tell the blondes apart without a scorecard. Marked for Murder takes place in Miami — private eye Mike Shayne comes in from New Orleans where he has been living and working after the death of his wife Phyllis, but once he hears that his good friend Tim Rourke, beat reporter for the Miami Courier, has been shot, almost fatally, you can’t keep him away.

   But to get back to the point I was making, Miami has to have a higher quota of blondes than any other part of the country, if this book is to be believed. Rourke was writing an expose about the blonde woman who has been seen hanging out with winners at gambling joints around town, said winners later showing up dead, their winnings not to be found.

   The wife of the current editor of the Courier is also a blonde. Rourke doesn’t get along with the editor, but he has been making time with the wife. He is also visited by a couple of blondes (one the editor’s wife) just after a pair of thugs working for the guy that owns the aforementioned casinos take Rourke for a ride.

   Even though this is a PI novel, it is also a good old-fashioned detective puzzler. Halliday’s writing (or that is to say, Davis Dresser’s) reminded me this time around of Erle Stanley Gardner’s, of all people, with enough clues and suspects to keep Shayne scratching his red-haired head all the way through the book.

   There is no final courtroom scene, à la Perry Mason, but à la the latter, Shayne does play loose and easy with the evidence and all of the possible suspects he encounters along the way. This one was fun to read, in a timeless sort of fashion, and I am embarrassed to say that I did not figure out who done it long before Shayne did, and I should have.