New Orleans detective Mike Shayne is hired by a little old lady to find her son who had enlisted in the army under an assumed name after working in Mexico as a miner for five years. Shayne's trail weaves a serpentine course through a web of lies and deceit, encountering equally dirty politicians on both sides of a mayoral race, a missing soldier, blackmail, unrequited love, and mistaken identity. Can Shayne solve the mysteries, get out alive, and get paid?
I devoured this in one sitting while my car was being worked on. It was a page turner of the highest order. Brett Halliday is a master of misdirection. I'd say almost 75% of the book was red herrings and false leads. While I suspected the old switcheroo had been pulled at some point, I had no idea how complicated things had become.
Mike Shayne seems like an ancestor of sorts of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder. He obeys his own code more than the law and is fairly flexible as far as rates go. He took the case initially for fifty bucks and then set about getting a more worthwhile fee during the course of the investigation. I'll be reading more of Mr. Shayne's cases in the future.
While it wasn't my favorite Hard Case, this one is definitely on the worthwhile end of the spectrum. Halliday will keep you guessing until the very end.