Floyd Mahannah (1911-1976) never had a successful literary career, but his small body of work is still highly respected by crime-noir fans and enthusiasts. With just six full-length paperback novels to his credit (one of which was just a condensed version of another), Mahannah also contributed to a number of magazines like Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Manhunt, Adventure and Argosy. His 1957 novel, “The Broken Angel”, has been reprinted by Stark House Press with an introduction by author Bill Pronzini ('Quincannon', 'Nameless Detective'). The reprint also includes six of the author's short stories.
The book stars newspaper editor Roy Holgren as a hapless fool who's fallen in love with his secretary, the sultry and suspicious Sara. The two have been fooling around for a few months, with just enough intimacy to propel Roy's infatuation with the young woman. But, this is a crime novel and soon enough Roy finds that Sara has skipped town, ditching him and his marital aspirations. Leaving behind a letter, Sara states that she is on the lam from police pursuit and that she'll miss Roy.
The narrative expands as Roy receives a second letter from Sara just four days later. She has the audacity to ask him for $200 and leaves an address for her location. Roy, still chasing love, arrives at the address to find Sara is now residing in a hospital after a vicious assault by a man named Wes Wesnick. Sara, fearing Roy may be her only help, unveils her compromising position in a murder heist.
Sara was once a nurse named Sharon Albany. After falling in love (read that as lust) with her married employer, plastic surgeon Bantley Quillard, there was a mysterious murder of his wife, Iris. The question of whether Sara killed the woman in a jealous fit of rage is a dominant plot point. Roy doesn't know, Sara refuses to elaborate and the devil's in the details. But, aside from one messy murder that Sara is avoiding, the real quandary lies in an opportunity for Roy. Sara knows where Mace Romualdo is living. Mace is a wanted suspect in a major jewelry heist in San Francisco. It's up the ante for Roy when he learns that the jeweler's insurance company will pay ten-percent of the insured value for any jewelry that is returned or found, plus a $25,000 bonus. If Roy can bring Mace to the police, he could solidify a life with Sara, who may or may not be a seductive killer.
“The Broken Angel” reads like a Day Keene novel but has enough foreboding doom to capture Cornell Woodrich. It's a brooding take on mistrust and ill-fated love, with a number of characters that are equally flawed and unworthy. Should anyone benefit from the reward money? I'm not terribly sure, but Mahannah certainly makes for an entertaining, albeit convoluted, crime story. I didn't have the opportunity to read or review the stories included in the Stark House reprinting, but based on just the quality of “The Broken Angel”, this one is sure to please genre fans.
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