William Ard died way to young, in 1960 at age thirty-eight, of cancer. But during his short career he turned out thirty-two novels, nine of which featured private eye Timothy Dane. From 1951, THE PERFECT FRAME was the first.
An attractive young woman(is there ever any other kind in a P.I. novel) stops by Dane’s office one day, Evelyn Huntington, and wants to hire him for her husband of six months who she’d been separated from a month(he drank and played around). Dane protests that he doesn’t do divorce work, but she says that’s not it. He’s in some kind of trouble and she wants Dane to help.
She wants Dane to be at The Harmony Bar to meet someone later that night. She’d gotten a phone call to meet a person there to learn something about her husband, Walter Huntington. “Sounds like divorce business.” Assuring him it’s not, she offers him two days rates, it should be enough, for the job. Fifty bucks is hard to turn down. He’d been looking at dun notices from his landlord and answering service when she’d arrived. And he’d hocked his gun to get a few bucks as well.
The Harmony Bar was the crummiest joint Dane had ever seen. Which was saying something. He orders a beer and gets one in a dirty glass. Sigh. Unwilling to taste it, he goes into the bathroom, washes his hands, kills a few minutes waiting for this “person,’ then emerges to find a very large man sitting at his beer. He ends up getting a beating and tossed out.
A call to the cops, Dane had seen in the paper that they were looking for a strangler, got a raid on the joint, a knock-down, drag out with the big man, and Dane sneaking in after hours for a look see. A door in back leads him into the warehouse next door where he finds a number of files for OCEANIC BROKERAGE COMPANY. That leads him to their offices where he’s surprised to find an old friend, Jocko Robinson, working, a fellow detective from a P.I. agency they’d worked together for in Chicago. Oceanic is an insurance agency for marine vessels and one of their officers is Walter Huntington. A man named Forbes is the big boss and more of a mouse Dane had never seen, a mouse who couldn’t believe Huntington was involved in anything illegal and was willing to pay Dane a thousand to leave it all alone.
That sends Dane’s mind working, but he takes the money anyway.
Of course Mrs Huntington wasn’t, Dane gets visited by a trio of hoodlums(and beaten again, as well as being threatened with a knife wielding hophead), Huntington jumps from the window of his office and falls to his death, and finally thw warehouse gets burned down, a case of arson his friend on the fire department admits.
Quite enjoyed this one. It’s available here in a nice omnubus edition with a second Dane novel, .38, under the title The Perfect .38, from RAMBLE HOUSE.
Worth a look if you like P.I. novels.