BRETT HALLIDAY – Murder in Haste. Torquil/Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1961. Dell 5970, paperback, 1962. Reprinted several times.

   If my count is correct, this is the third of twenty-three Mike Shayne novels that were ghost-written by author Robert Terrall under the Brett Halliday byline, and to me, it’s far from the best in the series. It’s easy to speculate in retrospect, but I never had the sense that the author had more than a surface feeling for the characters, that it may have been too early.

   The well-known antagonism between Shayne and Miami Beach’s Chief of Detectives Peter Painter is emphasized over and over, for example, and that Shayne’s fondness for drinking cognac, is demonstrated more times than I’d care to count.

   Nor is the story any great shakes, though it does redeem itself in a semi-satisfactory way by the time Shayne wraps it up at the end. The telling is far too complicated, for one thing, with at least two different threads of the plot going at the same time, and one of those not very interesting:

   (1) The wife of a murdered bank employee is contacted by the wife of the man convicted of the killing, asking her to retract her testimony against her husband. The former is willing, but would like Shayne to investigate further. (2) A convention of union delegates is in town — one of those organization with all kinds of crooked behavior going on at the top. (3) Peter Painter, who seems to have been holding his cards close to his vest, has disappeared. Unfortunately no one seems to know what game he was even playing.

   OK, so maybe that’s three. Number two didn’t interest me at all, and I never cared all that much about Peter Painter. Neither does Mike Shayne, but he figures he has to save the guy if he can.

   There’s a lot of mostly meaningless action going on in th early going, mostly to give the impression that something is going on, when it isn’t. There are also way too many characters involved, and one unfortunate continuity goof that slowed me down to a crawl for a while. The ending, when it comes, is a decent one, as I previously mentioned, but as you can probably tell, my recommendation for this one is no better than so-so.