After a string of remarkable 1940s and 1950s bestsellers, author Mickey Spillane became a Jehova's Witness and took a long hiatus from writing. Upon his return, Spillane continued his popular Mike Hammer installments. However, he also started writing stand-alone novels and novellas like 1965's Killer Mine. This 80-page work was packaged with the stand-alone novella Man Alone in 1968 and published by Signet under the title Killer Mine. After nearly a year of reading full-length novels, I decided to tackle the Killer Mine novella for a change of pace.
The story is set on a seedy side of Chicago and introduces readers to Lieutenant Joe Scanlon, a tough-as-nails cop who grew up in the area before joining the fight in World War 2. Post-war, Scanlon worked his way up the ladder and moved on to a less crime-ridden part of the city. However, after four homicides are found to have a common thread, the brass ask Scanlon to return to his old stomping ground to find the killer.
Like any good police procedural, the narrative incorporates interviews with eye-witnesses, friends and peers that appear hazy when it comes to morals, ethics and doing the right thing. Scanlon's partner is surprisingly a female cop who works juvenile delinquents, but she's brought into the case as a disguise to allow Scanlon to appear that he is married and returning back home. Once Scanlon's dives into the details, he learns that all four murdered men were once his childhood friends. To solve the mystery, Scanlon recounts portions of his childhood to the reader in a race to find the killer.
At 80-pages, Killer Mine works well as a brisk police procedural. Like Mike Hammer, Scanlon is quick to violence, throwing his hefty girth around mobsters, hoodlums and whores to gain clues and information about the victims and the killer. Ultimately, whether any of it is interesting is probably based on your love of procedural books. While Killer Mine isn't a run 'n gun action extraordinaire, it's still compelling enough to turn the pages. As a good afternoon distraction, you could certainly do much worse.
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