MAX ALLAN COLLINS – Deadly Beloved. Hard Case Crime #38, paperback original; 1st printing, December 2007. Cover art by Terry Beatty.

   I enjoyed this one. I’ve followed the adventures of female PI Michael Tree (Ms. Tree) rather haphazardly over the years, all in comic book or graphic novel form. This is her first appearance in true novel format, and it goes back and retells the story of her first big case, that of solving the murder of her husband, PI Mike Tree, on their wedding night a year earlier.

   It begins, however, with another case, one which as she puts the pieces together, she finds is intimately connected with the Chicago-based Muerta family, a longtime nemesis. As a PI in skirts, Ms. Tree is as hard-boiled as they come. In his afterword to the novel, Max Allan Collins says that she was based on Mickey Spillane’s assistant slash secretary Velda, which certainly made sense to me as soon as I read it.

   As a writer, Collins may not be the best word-stylist in the world, but he certainly puts the words together well enough that this book can be read straight through in two hours or less, about the same as a good PI movie from the 1950s. If you’re a private eye fan, see if you can’t find this one.

Note:   For more on Ms. Tree and her previous appearances, you might check out her Wikipedia page or Don Markham’s Toonopedia page.