Hard Case Crime has made a habit of consistently bringing back into print books that came out decades ago along with a few brand new titles. Such is the case with this novel originally published in 1958 by Fawcett Books. While it is a pleasant enough diversion, it certainly doesn’t meet the usual standards set by Hard Case Crime.
Peter Malloy had been a part of the Florida mob. He managed to get out, taking his secrets and knowledge with him and managing to leave on his own terms. He eventually opened up a fishing supplies place called “The Angler’s Shop.” He got himself a girl friend, Elaine, who means the world to him. But, he always knew that the price of the illusion of freedom was expensive and someday the tab would come due.
That someday is now as his old boss wants his help. Rudy Mask has been sent to bring Pete back. Macy has sent for Pete because somebody is trying to kill him. Somebody is taking out the old gang one by one and Macy is feeling fear and his age. Macy has let control slip through his fingers and now the old crime boss needs Peter to stop whoever is trying to kill him. If he won’t cooperate, Macy has information that could ruin forever his relationship with Elaine and according to Rudy, will definitely use it.
Of course, Peter Mallory isn’t going to let that happen. Elaine means everything to him and she doesn’t know about his dark past and it is very questionable whether their relationship could survive the knowledge. So, he will go to Macy’s estate, see the old man and do what needs to be done to get free once and forever. While the players have for the most part changed, his skills haven’t dimmed nor has his assumption that everyone is against him.
This is simply a book by the numbers. Almost all the male characters are violent knuckle dragging thugs except for Pete. Pete is the only one who can see the big picture and he is the only one with a certain style and class. The women are stunningly beautiful and either evilly cunning using their bodies as bait or mind boggling stupid and using their bodies as bait. Violence is just a few pages away throughout the book and seems to be used in most cases as a way of avoiding any depth to the story or characters. Instead, the violence is usually unnecessary and serves only as a vehicle to move the story forward in some way. Virtually all of the characters are stereotypically bad actors in one way or another.
While the story does have two minor surprises, most of the book is one that any reader of mysteries is going to easily figure out. The writing is distant and the characters never really come alive for the reader. There is a flatness to the book from start to finish as Pete tells readers how much he is tormented by various things, but that fact and many others never really come alive for the reader.
The August 2008 selection of the Hard Case Crime Book Club doesn’t meet the normal standards of the published books. From a flat uninspired cover to a stereotypical story, this isn’t one of the really good ones readers have come to expect. Therefore, it can only be of real interest to devoted readers determined to read every single title published by this company.
Steve Brackeen (John Farris)
Hard Case Crime
Review copy came courtesy of my paid membership in the Hard Case Crime Book Club
Kevin R. Tipple Â© 2008