MICHAEL COLLINS – The Night Runners. Dan Fortune #9. Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1978. Playboy, paperback, May 1981.

   What makes Dan Fortune distinctive among other fictional PI’s is that he has only one arm. Among the other obvious disadvantages it presents is that it makes it rather difficult to blend in with a crowd when tailing someone, for example, but little more than comes up in this, his ninth recorded adventure.

   He’s hired by the head of a small but profitable pharmaceutical company in this one to find the man’s older brother Bill, a fellow who works for the firm but is essentially useless on the job. Worse, every so often he goes off on gambling binges – the players in these floating poker games all being night runners – but what’s different this time is that he’s also completely disappeared.

   Fortune takes the job and quickly discovers that Bill has gotten involved with an attempt to rescue his nephew from a Mexican prison (involving a band of outlaws/mercenaries as another type of night runner)  and that the $8000 he had been entrusted with has also disappeared. Has he gambled the money away or has the bribery attempt gone bad? When an intermediary is found dead, Fortune cannot help but think the latter.

   There are a lot of people involved in the story that follows, perhaps too many for its own good: the ones working for the pharmaceutical company based in Connecticut; the sleazy go-betweens Bill has gotten mixed up with in New York City; and the even more ruthless ones down in Mexico. The quietly desperate lives of those living in the urban environs of the big city, most of them creatures of the night, are portrayed the best, which is not to say that those living in suburban and small town Connecticut do not have their own problems, except to say that they hide them better.

   Weakest are the scenes taking place in Mexico, which are both significant but thankfully short. All in all, it’s quite a mixture, and as such makes for fairly intense reading. Unfortunately I found the primary villain of the affair rather obvious, and you may too. Fortune simply does not ask the right questions at the right time; that is to say, when I thought he should.