Dividend on Death
Author: Brett Halliday (Davis Dresser)
Cover Art: Robert McGinnis
Originally Published: 1939
Reviewed Edition: Dell D293 (1959)
This is the book that introduced the public to private detective Mike Shayne; the red-headed, temperamental, perpetually down-on-his-luck sleuth. Halliday (Dresser) would spend the rest of his life writing (and commissioning other writers) of the adventures of the popular detective. This is the novel that started it all…inauspiciously, I may add.
The rich, young, and beautiful Phyllis Brighton hires Mike Shayne to make sure the girl does not kill her beloved mother. She had been told she is ‘sick’ and is jealous of her mother’s new relationship with the ultra-wealthy Brighton. Shayne then is hired by the shady Dr. Pedique to perform the same task. When Shayne arrives at the Brighton’s home, he is too late; the murder has already been committed, but Shayne knows there is something underhanded occurring.
He protects the stunning Phyllis, trades barbs with Miami Beach detective, Painter and investigates a murder everyone else believes is an open and shut case. It’s a combination of Shayne’s hard-headedness and gut instinct that keeps him pushing for the truth.
A decent entry in the Shayne series, but not quite the explosive introduction to the popular protagonist one would have hoped for. It would take some time for Halliday to hit his stride with the Shayne character. Some of the earlier novels contain a touch of humor (sometimes more than a touch), which was abandoned, creating a deeper more emotionally flawed hero.