Completed: 10 January 2012
Much like Charlie Chan, I was only familiar with Michael Shayne from the films I had seen featuring that character. Unlike Earl Biggers, Brett Halliday wrote fifty Shayne novels. The first appeared in 1939. Blood on Biscayne Bay was the 13th to be written.
Michael Shayne is just wrapping up a vacation in Miami, Florida where he had fled to try and escape his growing attachment for his secretary Lucy Hamilton. Shayne is preparing to return to New Orleans in the afternoon when Christine Hudson, a former friend of Lucy’s, asks Mike for his help. She wants him to deliver a string of her pearls to a disreputable night club owner to pay off a $10,000 IOU. Christine has recently married the wealthy and handsome Leslie Hudson. Supposedly she is being blackmailed to keep her past from being revealed to her new husband.
Mike accepts the assignment, delays his return to New Orleans, recovers the IOU and manages to keep the pearls at the same time. But, the next morning Christine is appalled that Mike still has the pearls and Natalie, the maid is found dead in Biscayne Bay, behind the house. It turns out that Mike is the last person to have seen her alive. They shared a cab together the previous evening. More murder and blackmail follow.
This book just did not work for me. I found that I just didn’t care what happened to the characters. The blackmail plot was way too complicated, to the point of being nonsense. I just didn’t care what happened. I got through the whole book, but it was an effort.
As my first Michael Shayne novel it seemed like too much prior knowledge was assumed to be possessed by the reader. For example, police detective Peter Painter disliked Shayne intensely, to the extent of being blind to other possible suspects to the murder. He seemed almost willing to let the actual murderer go if he could pin it on Shayne. The hostility between the two just did not make sense and that kind of stupid animosity is not what I would expect from the head of detectives. The police have lots of ways of getting to someone. If Painter truly had it in for Shayne then Shayne would have been in jail, not running around trying to solve a murder.
What I do like about this book, and the reason it is in my collection is the cover. The early Dell Map Backs have these great Art Nouveau style covers.