Thursday, April 16, 2020

Bullet Proof

Amber Dean (real name Amber Dean Getzin, 1902-1985) was a New York native that authored 17 mystery novels between 1944 and 1973. One of the author's most consistent characters was that of Abbie Harris, a nosy amateur detective that debuted in 1944's Dead Man's Float. The seven-book series features Harris solving mysteries and assisting police in and around Rochester, New York. My first experience with Amber Dean is a stand-alone novel entitled Bullet Proof, published in 1959 by Popular Library.

In the novel's opening chapter, Jac Constable and his wife Betty are talking with New York State Police regarding a possible male voyeur that was spotted in their vineyard. When the police depart after failing to locate the perpetrator, Jac spots the man in a nearby bush. After a confusing sequence of events, Betty calls the police to return to the house. But too little too late. Betty is shot and killed by the lunatic hiding in the bushes.

Next, this opening sequence is replayed again from the perspective of the lunatic in the bushes, a 16-year old named Henry Muslim. Muslim has escaped from a nearby juvenile delinquent facility called Diligence and spent the last two nights sleeping in the basement of an abandoned house. After stealing a .22 rifle, Muslim is driven by the need for attention. He isn't fueled by adolescent rage, sex or money. He simply wants to be chased. In alternating chapters, the book changes perspective from Muslim to various law enforcement officers. But, the book's main character is Jac Constable's sexy secretary Hallie Brown.

The author forces readers to spend a great deal of time in the headspace of Hallie. These sequences are saturated with Hallie's lust for Jac, her flirtation with a local cop and daydream segments where Hallie is embraced by a husky cop and taken to an Alaskan cabin. As a fan of hardboiled, vintage crime-fiction that features tough cops and ruthless killers, the author's lovey-dovey approach to storytelling wasn't exactly the narrative promised by the book's inspiring cover. Eventually (I mean page 80 of 124-pages), Hallie is kidnapped by Muslim but the two never actually engage in dialogue. In fact, Muslim ties her up and leaves. The end.

I'm sure Amber Dean is a fine mystery author and has her share of cozy mystery fans. Based on my experience with Bullet Proof, I'm not one of them. Her method of saddling the storytelling on a number of characters was confusing and took me out of the story. After a shocking opening chapter, the rest of the book just waddles in mediocrity as Muslim peeps on residents, sits at a drive-in movie and tinkers with a car. Hallie is wasted as an overbearing sex goddess that remains tied in a chair for most of the book's hectic finish. The cops are clueless while the author pitches a surprise swerve at the end.

Bullet Proof was a dreadful reading experience and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. If you have to own this book due to its vivid cover, please entertain purchasing a copy of it HERE.

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