This was the first in the series featuring New York lawyer Scott Jordan. It opens with a great screwball variant on that hardboiled cliché of a man waking up with a hangover and an unknown dead blonde in his bed. This time she’s alive but drunk, loitering in his apartment uninvited and in her undies. His attempts to get her to leave are hindered by her passing out and several interruptions by her dodgy friends. He finally puts her in a taxi, but soon the cops arrive as she later expired on the back seat …
I submit this review for Bev’s Golden Age Vintage Mystery Challenge; and Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme over at her fab Pattinase blog.
“Damn it Bob! I gave you a key to my apartment so you could sleep there, not to use as a parlor house for every chippy you picked up off the streets.”
Like his main character, Masur was a lawyer who had recently returned to civilian life after serving in the Second World War. Despite the almost farcical tone of the initial sequence of Jordan’s homecoming (and it is a very memorable opening), there is a decidedly post-war sensibility here, one much more in tune with a jaded, even Noirish point of view as it comments ruefully on just what people will do to get their hands on some money. The plot on the other hand reminded me a lot of the Perry Mason series, especially the more hardboiled entries from the early 1930s, and like those certainly gets very complicated, very quickly.
“Listen, Dillon is a lawyer, my dear, not a saint. Almost any lawyer will flavor the facts to fit a case.”
Jordan had been in Miami to represent the interests of his friend and client Bob Cambreau, a millionaire throwing his life away on wine, women and song. It turns out that he and his wife have split up and because in New York the only grounds for divorce were adultery, he was using the apartment to expedite matters. The blonde was Verna Ford, a burlesque dancer hired to be found in a compromising position that night, which is why Jordan got so many visits (including an unscheduled appearance by her jealous boyfriend, who promptly becomes the main suspect after Jordan). This had been organised by Dillon, the lawyer representing Bob’s wife. He knew Verna from a another one of his cases as she was the witness at a car accident in which a rich old man and very young and brand new wife died. And all of a sudden she becomes crucial to the case because hers is the only testimony available on who died first, the husband or the wife, which will determine which of the heirs stands to inherit about half a million dollars. On top of the two competing families, one of whom becomes Jordan’s client, there is the hophead with a gun who tries to shoot Jordan and who it turns out is also a friend of the gangster who owns the club where Verna worked and of the other claimant to the fortune. The a man gets killed in Jordan;s office, apparently mistaken for the lawyer (told you it got complicated).
“He hung up. The line was deader than the Holy Roman Empire.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, for its wry prose, rather sweet romance for the hero and a busy plot that managed to keep me interested right to the appropriately unexpected conclusion (though I did have an inkling). On top of which, for once the cop, John Nola, proves to be bright and not the usual dunderhead authority antagonist (that role gets reserved for the DA). The hot-headed Jordan is a bright and likeable too, the kind of man who keeps a bottle of bourbon in his office hidden in a hollowed out book of Shakespeare plays and never wavers when it comes to his friends. I look forward to catching up with more of his cases soon. For a detailed profile of Masur and this series, visit Mysteryfile.com. The book is available through Amazon and direct from the publishers (who really, really should have tried a bit harder with the QC of the OCR) at: http://ravensheadpress.com/
The Scott Jordan series
- Bury Me Deep (1947)
- Suddenly a Corpse (1949)
- You Can’t Live Forever (1951)
- So Rich, So Lovely, So Dead (1952)
- The Big Money (1954)
- Tall, Dark and Deadly (1956)
- The Last Gamble (aka The Last Breath, 1958)
- Send Another Hearse (1960)
- Make a Killing (1964)
- The Legacy Lenders (1967)
- The Mourning After (1981)
I submit this for Bev’s 2014 Golden Age Vintage Mystery Challenge bingo in the ‘reviewed by another challenger’ category as it was reviewed by John Norris of the amazing Pretty Sinister Books (he also had a hand in getting it reprinted, but that’s another story). And with this one I am completing the Golden challenge – thanks as always to Bev for hosting this irresistible event.