Shell Scott, the shamus who has Sherlock whirling in his grave...the wacky knight-errant of gorgeous gals who leaves a trail of beautiful bodies behind him (not all of em dead)...the private eye who's every killer's public enemy. This is the first book in this action-packed mystery series.
The Case of the Vanishing Beauty began when one beauty vanished from sight and another died in a hail of bullets. Next on the murder list was lovely Lina...Lina who was hotter than a welder's torch...and Shell Scott had left his asbestos suit at home.
©1953 Richard S. Prather (P)2010 Books in Motion
Here's the deal, Mac: You are only likely to "get" this book if you are a fan of mainly old time hard-boiled tough-guy American detective fiction (40s, 50s, 60s) of the pulp/Chandler/Hammett genre. If you are, you will recognize this as more loving parody than the genuine article. That's not knocking it; I enjoyed the book, and actually laughed out loud several times at some of the outrageous examples of hard-boiled dialogue and descriptions. But I almost gave up early on this novel because of the reader, Maynard Villers. I see he reads a lot of genre books, including a number of Shell Scott novels. By the end of the book, I was OK with him, but with an asterisk. His voice was pretty good for the characters, but he is at times an excruciatingly slow reader, not because he talks slowly, but because of long, unnecessary pauses between sentences. It's like he lost the next paragraph, repeatedly. It makes Scott and the scenes seem flat. He was especially bad about this in the first half of the novel, then suddenly seemed to get better. Maybe the audio director said let's move this buggy along. But this is supposed to be a lively, energetic story, and he reads so slowly, that he DE-energizes it. But I found the cure. On Audible, you can change the reading speed. After Villers speeded up his pace in the middle, he was better, but what really helped is when I moved the Audible reading speed to 1.25x. From there on, I hardly noticed the slowness. (Be sure to move it back to 1x for your next book.) Now, back to the book: This is NOT literature, like, say, Chandler. I have read a lot of pulp detective fiction, but this is my first Shell Scott novel by Richard S. Prather, though I was well aware of the books (and their goofy original covers) and that they were considered amusing and light. So I am only reviewing this book, not the whole long series. The detective story here, including plot and twists, was so-so, but the pace and humor were good and I may try another. Scott is an enjoyable character, rugged and a tad cocky, but also likeable and not a belligerent jerk. He loses some fights, and sometimes tries to avoid others. Sexist? Well, yeah, this is written in 1950, and it's a parody, but he does seem to actually like women as people, unlike, say, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. And they aren't stupid. There was some vaguely implied sexual activity, but Prather was hilariously oblique in describing it, like a 1950s movie. So, this is a mixed bag, and only for those who read lots of old-school, tough-guy detective fiction and don't take it seriously.
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