A Way with Murder
“Secret St. Rain.” That’s how a character introduces herself on the first page of this wannabe hardboiled mystery set in Denver in 1952. Subsequent characters are named London, Alabama, and January. With names like that, this could read more as a pastiche than homage to this particular genre. Secret St. Rain has come to hire PI Bryson Wilde. She was the witness to a murder and fears for her life. Simultaneous narratives find reporter Waverly Paige investigating the same murder; lawyer London Marshall hiring Wilde to save her life (she’s also an amateur archaeologist); and mysterious Dayton River hired to abduct a waitress—an assignment he flubs when he encounters tattooed January James. Seriously.
This is a book to be read in one sitting so the reader doesn’t have time to digest or question it. From that perspective, I found it entertaining. Poke too hard at it, and the whole thing falls apart. The whole book spans just five days from July 21 to July 26, 1952. These days are so crammed with incidents (love, murder, kidnapping) that they give Jack Bauer’s 24 hours a run for their money. So, in the end, I think this is a pastiche. At least Mickey Spillane took himself seriously.