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Dividend On Death (1959)

Dividend on Death (1959)
3.78 of 5 Votes: 5
dell publishing co., inc
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Dividend On Death (1959)
Dividend On Death (1959)

About book: 3.5 stars, rounded up.Mike Shayne had just sat down with a nice cocktail when his prospective client, Phyllis Brighton, tries to throw herself out the window of his apartment. She claims that she’s crazy, that she has an Electra complex, a fixation so intense that Phyllis believes she’ll kill her mother rather than share her with anyone else—and she’ll pay Shayne if he can prevent it. Just after she leaves, Shayne is visited by another party, and he promises a hefty payday if Shayne can keep Phyllis’ mother alive. Glad to take two payments for one job, Shayne accepts… but to his chagrin, that night he finds Mrs. Brighton is found with a knife in her back, and a discombobulated Phyllis standing over her corpse. Working fast, he hustles her out of the crime scene and does his best to keep the police off her trail, even as she remains the prime suspect. Shayne needs to work fast to uncover the truth of who did kill Mrs. Brighton—before the detectives find Phyllis. All this while juggling another job, a seemingly unrelated search for an art collector heading into Miami hiding a potentially rare find…And with that, we have a suitably complex plot, several sub-plots that may or may not be related—and may or may not be what they appear—and a missing Phyllis, who may or may not be crazy. Her psychiatrist all but steps out of a gothic’s mad scientist role, and everyone affiliated believes she’s snapped and done the deed, but Shayne is unwilling to let a confused client fry for something he’s pretty sure she didn’t commit. Thus, he treks up and down the streets of Miami, trying to unravel the truth—and with the subsequent murders and subplots, the truth is something that becomes less clear the closer Shayne gets to it.I’d forgotten that the early Mike Shayne novels—the first half-dozen or so—were intriguingly odd hybrids, mixing elements of the traditional mystery with hardboiled noir and screwball comedy. The mystery is very Golden Age, down to Shayne pulling all the suspects together for the murderer’s grand reveal and dénouement, like something out of Ellery Queen or Nero Wolfe. There’s some great moments of wit and humor; one of my favorites is when two detectives barge in on Shayne, and he ends up cutting himself a sandwich using the murder weapon right under their noses. Yet there’s a distinct hardboiled edge: Shayne stays up all night drinking and smoking, shrugs off brutal beatings and four (!) bullets, and is a terrible flirt with the ladies… up until somebody barges in on him, as the books are a titch too clean for any of these romances to come to fruition. Dresser straddled the fence between the traditional fair-play whodunnit and the newer hardboiled school, and actually succeeds at doing so—it’s an odd “kitchen sink” approach, but it may appeal to both audiences.In terms of writing, Dresser is not my favorite of the Brett Hallidays; his prose—the dialogue in particular—is often bland and pulpy, getting the point across but not creating much excitement while doing so. If you want to see why Chandler or Hammett are held up as classics of American literature, read them back-to-back with this one. This isn’t to say Dresser is bad; he has a knack for writing a twisty-turny, fast-paced mystery, and while reading Dividend on Death you’ll rarely be bored or confused. Instead, he’s a pretty good example of average writing—very pulpy writing as well, without much flair in terms of imagery or emotion. His pacing is stronger than his prose, which accounts for something. And there’s a definite charm to its blend of fair-play mystery, hardboiled noir, and screwball comedy—while it doesn’t excel at any one of those elements, it’s quite decent at all three.I can see why Mike Shayne became the everyman detective; this first novel is quite well plotted and has some brilliant twists, and if you like it, the ensuing 77 novels give Shayne plenty of room for growth and adventure. Shayne is a bit generic in terms of personality—what this book gives us is “alcoholic,” “dedicated,” and “detective”—and the prose is capable but unexceptional. But the tight plotting and well-done mystery give the reader a lot to work with. The use of psychological elements is also worth mentioning, not just an interesting twist for Phyllis’ character but also very much indicative of its time. While it might not be the non-plus ultra of the detective genre, Dividend on Death is a good pick for readers who enjoy a bit of action in a solid mystery, especially due to its good balance between well-plotted Golden Age whodunnit and grittier crime-noir.In the interest of full disclosure, I received an e-ARC from MysteriousPress via NetGalley in exchange for an open and honest review.Full review, and other mystery reviews, found here.

"Ένας άγγελος στην κόλαση", εκδόσεις Άγκυρα.Τρίτο βιβλίο του Μπρετ Χάλιντεϊ που διαβάζω, χρονολογικά όμως είναι το πρώτο βιβλίο της σειράς, στο οποίο γνωρίζουμε τον κοκκινομάλλη ιδιωτικό ντετέκτιβ του Μαϊάμι Μπιτς, Μάικ Σέιν. Η υπόθεση είναι, ως συνήθως, αρκετά περίπλοκη και ολίγον τι τρελή, μια νέα κοπέλα πλησιάζει τον Σέιν και του λέει ότι φοβάται πως θα σκοτώσει την μητέρα της όταν αυτή γυρίσει από την Νέα Υόρκη. Η πρώτη σκέψη του Σέιν είναι ότι έχει να κάνει με τρελή. Δέχεται όμως ένα κολιέ για αμοιβή, έτσι ώστε να είναι εκεί που πρέπει όταν η μητέρα της κοπέλας έρθει σπίτι. Λίγο αργότερα, ένας ψυχίατρος, αυτός που υποτίθεται ότι κουράρει την νεαρή κοπέλα, προσλαμβάνει τον Σέιν για τον ίδιο λόγο! Και την επόμενη μέρα ο Σέιν βρίσκει το πτώμα της μητέρας στο δωμάτιο της και την κόρη της εμφανώς μπερδεμένη μες στα αίματα! Τότε τα πράγματα μπλέκονται εντελώς, όταν ο Σέιν αποφασίζει να τα κουκουλώσει κάπως όλ'αυτά... Η ιστορία αρχίζει αρκετά περίεργα και συνεχίζει στο ίδιο μοτίβο μέχρι το αποκαλυπτικό τέλος, με την δράση και την αγωνία για την συνέχεια να μην σταματά σε κανένα σημείο. ΟΚ, η πλοκή είναι σε σημεία τραβηγμένη και ακολουθεί την συνταγή των νουάρ μυθιστορημάτων των δεκαετιών του '30 και του '40, εμένα όμως σαν ιστορία μου άρεσε και μου κράτησε καλή παρέα για ένα τρίωρο σχεδόν. Η γραφή δεν λέει πολλά όμως είναι ευκολοδιάβαστη και με κάποιες ωραίες ατάκες. Τέλος, ο Σέιν έφαγε πολύ ξύλο στην ιστορία αυτή, συν κάτι σφαίρες, όμως γνώρισε την γυναίκα που παντρεύτηκε στην συνέχεια...
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While old enough to collect Social Security, this first Mike Shayne detective mystery is no way ready for a retirement community. With more action than many recent mysteries, Mike Shayne belongs to the hard boiled school - incredibly tough – he takes enough punches and kicks to his head and body in this one to send anyone else to the hospital for a week or so more.Hired to protect the wife of a once millionaire, Shayne arrives at the estate only to find her already dead and her dazed daughter in bed in a blood soaked nightgown, a bloody butcher knife on the floor beside her.Did she kill her mother in some crazy moment? She is not sure – but Shayne is, and he steals the knife and nightgown before anyone else can find it after she changes into a clean one, then meets the man who hired him, a supposed psychologist downstairs, locking her in her room from the outside.But that is only the beginning of a carefully plotted, action packed mystery that will keep you reading till the cows come home. And if you don’t like it? Send it to me and I’ll eat it for lunch!
So...I said recently that I'm not much into hardboiled detective novels. Yet here I am again with Brett Halliday's Dividend on Death (1939). And not a bad little detective novel at that. Yes, we've got the tough-talking detective, and the curvy dames, and the over-the-top bad guys, but somehow Halliday makes it all work. Dividend on Death is Halliday's first Michael Shayne novel. It doesn't really read like a first effort though. Shayne is well-developed as a character and it is obvious from his interactions with other characters that he has a firmly established background. He hasn't "just appeared" here in print. So, while this may be our first taste of Shayne at work, this isn't his first case.In this story, Michael Shayne winds up with more clients than you would think he could keep track of. First up, Phyllis Brighton who wants Shayne to tell her she's not crazy and going to kill her mother like "everyone" says. She hires Shayne to protect her from herself. Then along comes Dr. Pedique, one of the folks telling Phyllis that she's crazy. He hires the detective to protect Mrs. Brighton from her crazy daughter. Next, Roy Gordon who wants Shayne to find an art critic and prevent said critic from delivering a painting to the Brighton household. And then there's Monty Montrose who also has an interest in the painting and wants our hero to guarantee the painting winds up in the hands of Brighton. Finally, we have Police Inspector Peter Painter who will eventually hand over $2,500 in reward money when Shayne hands him the solution to this convoluted case on a silver platter.Somehow, Shayne manages to juggle all these various client balls without any of them bumping into each other. And has time to figure out who really did kill Mrs. Brighton and the beautiful nurse and why they're trying to pin the rap on Phyllis. It's a fun ride for any mystery lover and I would expect those who favor the hardboiled school to especially enjoy this one. Halliday can write and he delivers the tough-guy detective very effectively. I enjoyed this one much more than the A. A. Fair book that I just recently finished. Three and 3/4 stars...almost a four.
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