NORBERT DAVIS – The Mouse in the Mountain. William Morrow, hardcover, 1943. Handi-Books #40, paperback, 1945, as Dead Little Rich Girl. Rue Morgue Press, trade paperback, 2001.


    Norbert Davis was a mystery writer who entered the scene in the early 30s with a story in Black Mask magazine entitled “Reform Racket” (June 1932). He managed to switch to the slicks such as Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post, had a couple of detective novels published in hardcover, then one in paperback, and suddenly the bottom seemed to have fell out of the market for him. He committed suicide in 1949 when he was only 40 years old.

    This is the first of the three novels, all featuring the detective “team” of Doan and Carstairs. Doan is a little mild fat man who is also a private eye. According to his description on page 3:   “He looked like a very nice, pleasant sort of person, and on rare occasions he was.” Carstairs, his friend and constant companion, is an enormous Great Dane.

    Doan and Carstairs are in Mexico in this one, on a mission consisting (according to common knowledge) of finding and convincing a fugitive from the United States to stay in Mexico and not come home to bother a certain group of politicians who would rather certain activities remain unknown.


    “Common knowledge” may or may not be correct, as I’m sure you realize, and therein likes the story. What is most remarkable about Norbert Davis and his style of writing is how funny the story is, and how quickly the comedy can change into sudden violence.

    To reach the village of Los Altos, for example, Doan must take a sightseeing bus loaded with other typical American tourists, including the rich heiress to a flypaper company and a family with one of the brattiest kids this side of the comic strips. The laughter stops, however, at least momentarily, when they arrive and within minutes Doan must shoot an escaped fugitive in the mouth. Within days many more funny incidents have occurred, and so have several more deaths (not including the earthquake).

    It’s a top notch job of writing. Even though the plot itself is a little thin, it’s hard to complain about that. Davis makes writing seem so easy that anyone could do it, but if that were so, why can’t everybody write a novel that goes down as smoothly as this?

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 5, September 1977 (slightly revised).

       The Doan & Carstairs series —

The Mouse in the Mountain. Morrow, hc, 1943.
Sally’s in the Alley. Morrow, hc, 1943.


Oh, Murderer Mine. Handi-Books, pb, 1946.


    A long article about Norbert Davis and one of his enthusiastic readers, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, appears here on the main Mystery*File website. Following the article are several home photos of Davis and a complete bibliography, including his short fiction.