LAWRENCE G. BLOCHMAN – Midnight Sailing. Harcourt Brace & Co., hardcover, 1938. Dell #43, paperback, mapback edition, 1944. First published as a ten-part serial in Collier’s, 26 February through 30 April 1938 as “Sunset Voyage.”

   If a detective novel doesn’t take place on a transcontinental train the next best thing is on a slow freighter going across the Atlantic or Pacific. It is the latter that’s the setting of Midnight Sailing, on the Japanese ship Kumo-maru with plenty of pre-war jitters in the background.

   The detective of note, although this is the only murder mystery he seems to have been involved in, is foreign correspondent Glen Larkin, whose assignment is to follow Dorothy Bonner, the heretofore missing daughter of a rich silk merchant who committed suicide after being confronted by a Congressional hearing in which he was accused of stealing secret blueprints from the Navy Department.

   Also involved but seemingly not connected are some negotiations for valadium mines in Peru, and the ship is filled with many interesting characters, or ones who act suspiciously enough that any one of hem could be the killer of a stowaway (although he could have died accidentally) and the ship’s doctor (out and out murder).

   Larkin’s actions are somewhat less than professional on this assignment, since he finds Miss Bonner very attractive, and she seems to respond. But among the various other passengers are her brother (the previously mentioned stowaway) and her fiancĂ©. The reader soon begins to wonder if his suspicions about the latter are warranted or if something else has come into play.

   The detective puzzle is good enough, however, that by the end, all of the pieces have fallen neatly into place. But I have to confess I gave up early on who had the plans when or if they were copies and if so, who made them and why. As for the valadium, that seemed to be a red herring, but I will not tell you whether I was correct about that or not.

   The sights and sounds (and smells) on a freighter heading to Honolulu from California are well described and are the primary reasons I enjoyed this one. The puzzle, which got rather muddled along the way, at least for a while, is a bonus. The romantic aspects are there only to keep the story moving.