BRETT HALLIDAY – What Really Happened. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1952. Paperback reprints include: Dell #768, 1954; Dell D381, October 1960 (Robert McGinnis cover, seen to right). Dell 9458, July 1963.

   I don’t usually read two books by the same author back to back, but I’d just finished Marked for Murder (reviewed here ), I’d enjoyed it, this was stored in the same box, and I was about to take a plane trip to Michigan, so why not?

   This one was almost as good as as the earlier one (seven years earlier, from Mr. Halliday’s perspective) and in some ways better. In one way, a rather distinct one, I enjoyed Marked for Murder more.

   Better — by which I mean more complicated, in a good way! — was the plot, not a better by a huge margin, but the puzzle aspect was what found fascinating. Private eye Mike Shayne (back in Miami) gets a call from a woman named Wanda Weatherby who’s in near hysterics. She asks him to come over at midnight, that she had sent him a letter that he would receive in the morning, but she’s afraid someone is about to kill her, and she needs his help now.

   What’s interesting — you do know that when Shayne gets there, Wanda Weatherby is dead, don’t you? — is that one by one, Shayne meets several people who have been blackmailed by Wanda Weatherby have gotten letters telling them she is going to hire Shayne and that if she is murdered, Shayne should do his best to convict the recipient of the letter.

   Question is, which one did do the killing? I don’t know, maybe this description of the basic story line sounds silly, but Halliday does a great job convincing the reader that it all makes sense. Once again both the plotting and the telling remind me of Erle Stanley Gardner and both his Perry Mason and Bertha Cool-Donald Lam stories (the latter as by A. A. Fair) in terms of the way Shayne manipulates the evidence and manufactures his own, all in the interest of his client, a good friend of newspaper reporter Tim Rourke, fully recovered from his bullet injuries in Marked for Murder.

   That said, I’ve just realized that I can’t tell you what it was that I liked less about What Really Happened. In my review of Marked for Murder, I said “This one was fun to read, in a timeless sort of fashion…” and unfortunately this one’s definitely stuck in the 1950s. It isn’t a big deal, since I read many other books that are stuck in the 50s all the time. It’s only in comparison with Marked for Murder that I bring it up at all.