The Ocean Forest: Murder in Myrtle Beach
In the ’40s, the Ocean Forest in Myrtle Beach is a grand hotel frequented by the Southern upper class, of which Francis McKellar is not a member. Frankie is a Baltimore private investigator, a novice “dick” who hates his sleazy job. When he’s invited to a wedding at the Ocean Forest, even with all expenses paid, he’d just as soon skip it. But the guy getting married saved his life during the war, so Frankie has to be there.
Frankie’s a blue-collar guy in a secondhand tux, a Yankee who’s conspicuous among his buddy’s well-dressed friends even before he opens his mouth. When one of them is murdered, however, Frankie is in his element.
Tough, determined, annoying, but effective, Frankie probes until he touches a nerve and somebody slugs him. His technique lacks class, but when he uncovers a web of crime and cronies as sordid as any up North, he will remind you of Bogart or that other Francis, but without the “pipes.”
Nooe draws on the noir vocabulary, if not the mood, to create snappy dialogue. There are a few anachronisms (“You think?”), but Nooe is at his best when he’s putting words in Frankie’s mouth. The quick-witted gumshoe talks himself into the job of house detective at the classy Ocean Forest Hotel, where you’ll undoubtedly find him in future novels. Recommended for those who like a fast-moving mystery with a minimum of blood and a lively postwar atmosphere.