While hitchhiking to Norfolk to report for active duty, Navy Lieutenant David Young is smashed over the head with a tire iron and left for dead in a burning car. When he comes to, burned and bandaged in the hospital, everyone thinks he's Larry Wilson, the man who picked him up. It turns out Larry Wilson had a lot of reasons for wanting people to think he died in a fiery car crash...
Donald Hamilton is famous for the Matt Helm spy series, of which I have read none. I think this one of the Hard Case books that was reprinted because it was the cheapest of the author's works to secure the rights for.
Faking your own death with a hitchhiker's corpse is old hat in crime fiction. Hamilton puts a twist on it and has the killing botched. It was a good twist but the rest of the story didn't follow up on the promise. I never understood why Young felt the need to play along with Elizabeth Wilson, aside from her walking around in almost nothing and him being a red-blooded male, and without spoiling anything, I thought the ending was pretty far-fetched.
"But Dan," you say, "You gave it a three. What gives?" Hamilton's writing saved the day for me. The man new how to build suspense. While Elizabeth Wilson's character was fairly flat, Bunny and Doc Henshaw were pretty well done. Plus, he took a 50's plot involving communists and didn't make me laugh my ass off. Young wasn't a super hero and didn't walk around with guns blazing. That's was a huge plus.
Three stars but it could have easily been a 2 on a different day.