Friday, September 22, 2017

FFB Review: OH, MURDERER MINE by Norbert Davis -- Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Barry’s review previously appeared on FFB on November 4, 2011. Make sure you check out the full list over at Todd Mason's blog. Whether you are reading to relax or as research in order to get away with the crime, there are plenty of good books suggested to you each week.

by Norbert Davis

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

In the course of an arduous trek through a sluggish mystery novel, I took a break and tore through this little gem, the third and—alas!—final novel about the unlikely team of Doan and Carstairs (the other two are The Mouse in the Mountain and  Sally's in the Alley). Doan is a chubby, pleasant-faced private detective; Carstairs is the regal, haughty Great Dane he won in a crap game and who disapproves of him.

Doan is hired by 54-year-old cosmetics magnate Heloise of Hollywood to bodyguard her husband, 26-year-old meteorologist Eric Trent—a.k.a. "Handsome Lover Boy" in Heloise's magazine ads. Heloise, though still quite attractive herself, is afraid younger women will hit on Eric and wants Doan to supply the necessary discouragement.

Things get going when Melissa Gregory, an anthropology instructor at Breckenbridge University, is incensed by Trent's usurpation of her office, as sanctioned by T. Ballard Bestwyck, the university president. She confronts Trent about it, but her impetrations have no effect. Trent is arrogant and stubborn. Melissa learns he might even be taking over the apartment she maintains on campus.

That night, Melissa returns home after a date with assistant English professor Frank Ames to find an intruder in her apartment. The intruder knocks her out and flees, but not before Melissa has had time to scream. Hearing her, Doan and Carstairs investigate, and in the course of their pursuit, Doan is shot at and barely missed by the assailant. He subsequently discovers Frank Ames's body in a trashcan. Ames's throat has been sliced open.

It's only the beginning. More bodies remain to be discovered before Doan wraps things up. I won't go on—the book is only 128 pages long—except to say that the chapter in which Carstairs runs amuck in Heloise's salon is worth the price of the book. I recommend this one and its predecessors, along with the out-of-print The Adventures of Max Latin from The Mysterious Press (five novelettes originally published in Dime Detective), as wonderful examples of the screwball comedy school of mystery a la Jonathan Latimer and Craig Rice. Forget about realism, thematic explorations, or character depth—although some of Davis's characters are memorably wacky. This is storytelling as pure entertainment. Davis could and did write stories as hardboiled as those of Dashiell Hammett, Frederick Nebel, and Raymond Chandler, but his best work features an off-the-wall comic perspective on the tough detective story.

Oh, Murderer Mine is available in a trade paperback edition from Rue Morgue Press ( and in e-book formats (for free) at ManyBooks (

For more on Norbert Davis, see

Barry Ergang ©2009, 2011, 2017

Some of Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s work is available at Amazon and

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