BRETT HALLIDAY – Shoot the Works.

Dell 7844; paperback reprint, December 1965; cover: Robert McGinnis. Earlier paperback edition: Dell 988, September 1958; cover: Robert Stanley. Hardcover edition: Torquil / Dodd Mead, 1957.

BRETT HALLIDAY Shoot the Works

   According to the blurb on the hardcover edition, this was the 30th Mike Shayne novel that Brett Halliday wrote, which is to say Davis Dresser, who was still actively writing them in 1957. It takes place in Miami, with all of the usual players in place: Lucy Hamilton, Shayne’s secretary and close lady friend; Chief Will Gentry, of Homicide; and Timothy Rourke, ace reporter of the Daily News.

   I may be wrong, but while I can’t tell you in which book the four of them all appeared in together for the first time, I think they were in all of them from at least this point on – the point of time being this book, Shoot the Works, of course.

   It’s Lucy who gets Mike involved in this one. The mother of one of her closest friends comes home early from a trip to New York City only to find her husband shot to death in their apartment. Worse, he has a bag packed on the bed – and two airplane tickets to South America in his pocket.

BRETT HALLIDAY Shoot the Works

   Against his better judgment, at the urging of the dead man’s wife, who wishes to avoid a scandal and the notoriety that might end her daughter’s precarious pregnancy, Mike takes the tickets and withholds the evidence from Gentry.

   This has two serious repercussions. Gentry knows Shayne is holding something back, but he doesn’t know what; and secondly, Shayne finds himself in a serious bind: when his client is suspected, there’s no way he can get on Gentry’s good side, as the tickets will make the case against her even stronger.

   This is a murder case (and investigation) from beginning to end, with very little room left for anything that passes for more than surface characterizations. Shayne seriously flirts with a couple of ladies who seem completely willing to let him have their way with them – his relationship with Lucy seems to allow him the possibility, as far as he’s concerned, that is.

BRETT HALLIDAY Shoot the Works

   There are a couple of finely devised twists and turns of the plot, mostly based on statements and actions misinterpreted and misunderstood – nicely done – and one piece of evidence that Shayne obtains under unusual conditions, and I caught the significance of that, even though it isn’t brought up again until much later.

   The only drawback to this detective puzzle of a novel – other than the incessant smoking and sipping down cognacs – if that’s a drawback, that is – is the paucity of murder suspects involved. One might simply guess at the killer’s identity, and by the laws of probability one might actually be right.

   Without the pleasure of putting the facts together as they should be put. Otherwise where’s the satisfaction?