Author Baynard Kendrick is largely forgotten these days. But he was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America and held the very firs membership card. He worked with the blind for years and created his blind private investigator, Captain Duncan Maclain, to prove that blind folks weren’t completely helpless like most folks believed.
In THE ALUMINUM TURTLE(aka as The Spear Gun Murders), he’s in Tampa with his wife, Sybella, and his partner, Spud Savage and his wife, Rena, to visit with old friends and investigate a murder. It had been seven years since his old friend Ronald Dayland, Sr. had been murdered. The killer had never been found and his wife had married again to Jack Manning, who ran the family’s fruit business.
The aluminum turtle of the title is a marker buoy young Ronald, Jr. pulls up while out fishing with Maclain. He muddies the waters by not saying anything and moving the boat, believing he’s found a marker for some treasure. He doesn’t trust the blind man who’s powers of deduction seem almost psychic. He pretends to find it somewhere else, handing it to the Captain who deduces immediately, but doesn’t say anything, that he didn’t pull it up just then. It was warm and certainly couldn’t have just come up from twenty feet of water.
It gets the boy killed the next day while diving, when his body is found with a spear through the chest.
Plenty of suspects of hand as well.
Two boys, members of a rich kids’ gang called the Wharf rats, who’d threatened Junior and even taken a shot at him. Their boat parked near with one diving at the same time as Junior, then hauling anchor quickly and disappearing from family.
There was also a Greek and his boat nearby, the diver of the crew found the body, that had a bad reputation in the area.
And there was a gangster type, Lewis “Red” Barringer hanging nearby. Barringer worked hard to maintain an air of respectability with his shrimp boats and nothing had ever been pinned on him. It was believed he was a heroin distributor, one of the biggest, and a ruthless one at that.
More deaths by spear gun and his partner critically wounded by two bullets in the chest happen while the Captain pursues his investigation and the set-up of a trap when he begins to piece it together.
A nice mystery.
Kendrick’s Captain Maclain novels were the inspiration for the Longstreet TV series that starred James Franciscus as a blind insurance investigator. He received screen credit as the author of the source material. Here’s the first episode, The Way of The Intercepting Fist, where Longstreet meets a young Oriental played by Bruce Lee and begins receiving training in a martial art where he uses his ears in place of his eyes.
For more forgotten books, check in on Fridays with Patti Abbott at her blog, Pattinase.