RARA-AVIS: One last Shayne

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 31 Dec 2000

It is not quite the end of December when I write this so I can slip in one last Mike Shayne review. Wanting to test my memory that the Shayne novels that take place out of Miami were better, I picked up a copy of MURDER WEARS A MUMMER'S MASK (aka IN A DEADLY VEIN) from 1943. The locale is Colorado, specifically an old mining town that is now going for tourist dollars by renovating an old theater and holding a play festival. The plot is an odd mix of crusty old prospectors and backstage theater. Dresser takes much more care with this western location than he normally did with the Miami background. Born and raised in Texas, several of Dresser's best non-Shayne stories were based in the west. I always felt Dresser did not know that much about Miami. The story is also helped by the absence of the stock figure Miami friends and foes of Shayne. It was also the last appearance of the wife Phyllis. Not a moment too soon given one exchange in MUMMER:

    "Do you have to brawl, Michael--and on our vacation?" Phyllis wailed.
"Couldn't you ever, just once, solve a case with your brains instead of your fists?"

    Shayne regarded her intently, then said in a sour tone, "I'll always wonder whether that guy would have come clean if I had kicked him in the face. That's your doing, Phyl."

I think the honeymoon was over for this couple.

Richard Moore

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