NORBERT DAVIS – Oh, Murderer Mine. Doan & Carstairs #3. Handi-Book #54, digest-sized paperback, 1946. Rue Morgue Press, softcover, 2003. Collected in Doan and Carstairs: Their Complete Cases, Altus Press, softcover, 2016.

   Doan is a fiftyish and overweight private eye based in L.A., and fans of the stories he appeared in, starting back in the pulp magazines, constantly bemoan the fact that there weren’t more of them: only three novels and two short stories. Carstairs is his constant companion, a Great Dane, and one of he largest ever of his breed. And together they tackle the wackiest combination of hard-boiled fiction and goofy humor that you can possibly imagine.

   Unfortunately Oh, Murderer Mine is strong on the goofiness, but weak on the hard-boiled side of things. It may be the reason that the only publisher willing to take it on was a third-rank paperback outfit named Handi-Books. Their books were in size somewhere between regular paperbarks and digest-sized ones(a la EQMM). Many of their books were condensed down drastically from their earlier hardcover appearances; some, such as this one,were paperback originals.

   The setting is academia, which of course makes a very easy target of jokes and other funnery, and it begins with an anthropology instructor named Melissa Gregory going to her office and finding another faculty member ensconced there, courtesy the head of the school It turns out that he’s married to the fabulously wealthy Heloise of Hollywood, who has hired Doan to keep young impressionable women from throwing themselves at his feet.

   Somehow or another murder comes into play, and by story’s end at least three people has been killed. In the meantime, Carstairs has taken over much of the book, including a madhouse romp on his part through Heloise’s salon facility, including the mudbath area.

   There is no depth to any of the characters, however, some of whom have only walk-on parts but who are just as wacky as those who have much larger roles. In all in the name of good-natured fun, except perhaps for the murder victims. I think the earlier two books were better.


      The Doan & Carstairs series —

   Novels:

The Mouse in the Mountain (1943).
Sally’s in The Alley (1943)
Oh, Murderer Mine (1946)

   Short stories:

“Holocaust House” Argosy, Nov 16 & 23, 1940.
“Cry Murder!” Flynn’s Detective Fiction, July 1944.