RARA-AVIS: Dividend on Death

From: James Reasoner ( james53@flash.net)
Date: 14 Dec 2000

I just reread this, the first Mike Shayne novel, for the first time in over twenty years. I was surprised by how much I remembered of it -- and how much I didn't.

For example, I didn't recall that Shayne cooked so much, or that Dresser spent so much time describing food and clothing. To tie this in with another thread, I thought for a second that I was reading a Spenser novel! One of the best scenes in the book is a cooking scene, however. While being interrogated in his apartment by police detectives, Shayne calmly slices bread with a butcher knife which just happens to be the murder weapon the cops are looking for. (This isn't a spoiler. The reader is in on the joke, so to speak.) I also didn't recall the lesbian incest angle to the plot, which probably didn't turn up too often in mysteries published in 1939.

The book opens with Shayne meeting Phyllis Brighton for the first time. To be honest I never liked Phyllis all that much, though she becomes a better character in later books. I started reading Shaynes later in the series, after the introduction of Lucy Hamilton, and so I always preferred Lucy to Phyllis. In this book Phyllis is pretty ditsy, while Lucy was usually quite competent.

The plot is typically convoluted and takes a few ludicrous twists, but even having read the book before Shayne was still ahead of me on figuring things out. Most of it hinges on a couple of gimmicks that have been done to death
(to tie in with yet another thread).

But having said all that, I still enjoyed the hell out of the book. Shayne is a great character and Dresser keeps things percolating along. The writing in places is even a little poetic. I remember most of the other early books being better. I'm going to have to reread them now and check my memory.

Best, James

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 14 Dec 2000 EST