Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Goldfish Have No Hiding Place

James Hadley Chase was the thriller fiction pen name of British writer Rene Raymond (1906-1985) who authored around 90 novels under the Chase pseudonym with a career spanning from 1939 to 1984. He’s a European author whose books primarily take place in the U.S., and his paperbacks usually feature cheesy covers with uninspired photos of sexy 70s babes. Is it possible that the quality of the story inside surpasses the nondescript cover?

“Goldfish Have No Hiding Place” is a 1974 novel taking place in the upscale suburb of Eastlake. Steve Manson is a 38 year-old magazine editor with an anti-corruption mandate who is married to Linda, a glamorous social climber with expensive tastes. He’s spread thin financially largely because Linda has no sense of money or how much shopping one can justify on a $30,000 per year salary. As the novel opens, he has a $3,000 overdraft in his checking account and a wife who won’t stop spending.

Steve’s personal problems go from bad to worse when he is visited by the owner of a local boutique. It seems that the store’s new security system recorded a video of Linda shoplifting a bottle of perfume. The proprietor threatens to go to the cops unless Steve pays the man $20,000 in cash the next day. Normally, Steve would go to the police to report the blackmailing, but he’s in the process of exposing the chief of police for suspected corruption in his magazine. He rightfully fears that his complaint may not have a sympathetic audience with the suburban police.

The book’s title is a metaphor used early in the novel by Steve’s boss. The idea is that if Steve is going to attack the corrupt and dishonest in his magazine, he will be like a goldfish in a glass bowl and must live with unimpeachable ethics and total transparency regarding his personal behavior. Needless to say, Steve and his wife have trouble living up to this ideal, and Steve’s problems compound considerably as the story unfolds.

Giving away any of the twists and turns in “Goldfish Have No Hiding Place” wouldn’t be fair, but there are plenty of great surprises along the way - particularly when the blackmail story becomes a murder mystery. Although this was a 1974 paperback, it was written in the exact same style and plot structure as a 1950s Fawcett Gold Medal crime novel. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this tidy suburban noir written with competence and confidence by an author who has done this before. Put this one in the win column. Highly recommended. Buy this book HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment