Friday, November 30, 2007

E-BOOK: The Mouse in the Mountain by Norbert Davis

Since the demise of Black Mask, an on-line pulp fiction site, Manybooks.net seems to be picking up the slack and is sporting a growing pulp section. They have been featuring more of these titles on the homepage, and it's there I found The Mouse in the Mountain and was introduced to Doan and Carstairs. I found this introduction to the works of Norbert Davis which gives some valuable context into the pulp fiction market at the time (warning: sad ending!) It's too bad he wasn't born fifty years later, because hard-boiled humour in in these days. Doan is an affable is fairly laid back PI, and his partner, Carstairs, is a judgmental, irascible, pony-sized dog. Carstairs is right up there with the best animal companions in fiction, and his scenes are amusing. The memorable bits in this first installment involve Doan playing director to Carstairs to help a father control his unruly son.

The plot, such as it is, involves a bus trip in Mexico that ends in murder. There are some fairly stereotypical heiresses, colourful locals, obnoxious Americans and such, but the real star is Doan and his companion. Additionally, there is a bus driver who speaks delightful "school" English (correctly but in an over-the-top fashion) who steals his scenes, and the occasional period glimpses (Carstairs helps train army dogs for the 'war effort') add colour and character. I suppose the one drawback would be that mystery fans these days expect to be able to solve the case along with the detective. The ending, when it does come, comes out of nowhere in the "Actually, it was Professor Plumb! In the Library! With a candlestick!" type of vein.

I did love the dog though. The three novels in this series are definitely worth a read.

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