BRETT HALLIDAY – Fit to Kill. Dell D314; paperback reprint, October 1959. Cover art: Robert McGinnis. First published by Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1958. Also published in several other Dell editions.

   All in all, this one was a disappointment. I think the problem was this. If you’re going to write a Mike Shayne mystery, make sure he shows up in the story before page 61.

   Long, long before. The protagonist in the first sixty pages is Shayne’s good buddy, newspaper reporter Tim Rourke, who is OK as a good buddy, but as the hero of a rip-roaring PI novel, forget it. He is as bland as yesterday’s buttered toast. Even if he’s in some unnamed dictator-run Latin American country and a girl dressed only in négligée and slippers knocks on his door one evening and asks for his help in leaving the country.

   Need I say that she is blonde, young, and one of the “nicest-looking girls Rourke had ever seen.” Of course he helps her, and of course complications arise, and of course Mike Shayne has to come to the rescue, but none of this gets any more interesting than when the girl knocks on the door in the first place.

   The pieces are eventually all there, but nothing comes together as I remember Mike Shayne novels doing — none were ever special, but they were always solid, workmanlike pieces of PI fiction. This one seemed only half-baked, and now I know why.

   This is the first of the ghost-written Mike Shayne novels. All of the earlier ones were written by Davis Dresser under the Brett Halliday pen name, but beginning with this one, Dresser began farming out the books to other writers. This one, for example, was really written by Robert Terrall, who went on to write quite a few of them, but in this, the first one he did, he either had only the essence of the characters or he was trying too hard to make this one different, what with the long delayed entrance of Mike Shayne, the leading character, or he should have been.