JOHN SPAIN – Death Is Like That. Bill Rye #2. Dutton, hardcover, 1943. Detective Novel Classic #35, digest-sized paperback, 1945. Popular Library #178, paperback, circa 1948-49.

   Bill Rye would be the perfect name for a hardboiled, hard-drinking PI, except that he’s not really a PI. He’s more of a troubleshooter for a political boss named Callahan and his extended family, and boy is there trouble to shoot. Callahan is pulling all the strings he can to get his man into office as the governor, and he can’t afford any scandal to cause the campaign to come crashing down.

   And of incipient scandal, how about either of these? Callahan’s wife has just spent a night in jail after being picked up on a drunk and disorderly charge, and his son’s new wife was a close friend, shall we say, of a notorious gangster, and she’s about to be accused of taking a shot at him.

   The book starts slowly, step by step identifying all the players, which takes more time than usual since it’s a very close continuation of Dig Me a Grave (Dutton, 1942), and there’s plenty of backstory to fill in. But once Rye has Callahan’s wife convinced to accept a divorce, along with a big payoff, and ensconced in a secret sanctuary to dry out, the story bursts into action like gangbusters.

   Lots of violence and plenty of murders, in other words, so many that you’ll need a scorecard to keep track of them all. John Spain, who in real life was the pen name of veteran pulp writer Cleve Adams, not only pulls out all the stops but includes plenty of well-turned phrases in the telling. Not as many as a Raymond Chandler, of course, but well-turned phrases do add to one’s enjoyment to a hard-boiled detective story such as this one.

   And yes, it is a detective story, too, and a decent one at that.