FRANK KANE – Poisons Unknown. Ives Washburn, hardcover, 1953. Dell 822, paperback, 1955; Dell D334, paperback, January 1960.

   This is the seventh of 29 Johnny Liddell PI novels plus two short story collections. Liddell’s career started way in 1944 with the story “Murder at Face Value” appearing in the January 1944 issue of Crack Detective Stories, not the highest level of pulp magazines but it was a start. His first appearance in hardcover was About Face, published by Mystery House in 1947.

   In Poisons Unknown, Liddell heads for New Orleans to find a Holy Roller preacher in flowing white robes who’s gone missing. Liddell is working for a mob boss whose crime and corruption Brother Alfred has been sermonizing heavily against. If Alfred is dead, Marty Kirk fears he will be blamed.

   Or is Kirk just using Liddell to set up and eliminate Alfred? That’s what has Liddell puzzled. There is a twist or two, maybe three, in the story that follows, but only one may come as a surprise to anyone who’s spent their lifetime reading old PI novels such as this one.

   All in all, this one’s no more than average but far from mediocre and not nearly as formulaic as Kane was later, only mildly sex-obsessed but interrupted every so often by highly choreographed violence, and easily forgotten by the next morning.