JOHN EVANS – Halo in Brass. Paul Pine #3. Bobbs-Merrill, hardcover, 1949. Pocket 709, paperback, 1950. Bantam 1727, paperback, 1958. McMillan, paperback, 1988, as by Howard Browne.

   Paul Pine, a Chicago P.I., has been hired by an elderly couple in Lincoln, Nebraska to find their missing daughter. Her last known residence was in Chicago, having fled the small towny-ness of Nebraska for the big city.

   His only lead is the girl’s high school friendship with a prostitute who also made her way to the city. But every time Pine finds a lead, the lead witness winds up dead.

   The plot hinges on a thread/threat of (L)esbianism (which word is capitalized in the book as if the women were immigrants from the island of Lesbos). Browne expresses regret for this in the 1988 introduction and says that with the benefit of hindsight he never would have written the plot the way that he did.

   I personally (though I am not a woman (and thus my opinion is of questionable import) and not a lesbian though I have joked of being a lesbian trapped in a man’s body) thought that the lesbian angle was not handled particularly poorly. In fact, (SPOILER ALERT) there’s a trans twist in the story that I think might cinematically work even today—and to some extent has already been used in The Crying Game.

   Browne himself as a young man made the same move as the missing girl, hitchhiking from Lincoln to Chicago, which perhaps lends some verisimilitude to his presentation of the narrative.

   While not up to the level of his masterful Taste of Ashes, Halo in Brass remains a very enjoyable and well done Chandleresque detective novel.