Thursday, September 15, 2011

Murder for Sale

Read/Watch ‘em in Order #2:

Well, the Shadow had finished off a blackmail ring in New York City, taking out one finger of the loosely-knit criminal organization known as the Hand.

But that still leaves four fingers remaining. It was in the July 1, 1938 issue of the Shadow Magazine that the mysterious vigilante takes on “Murder for Sale.”

Ring Brescott has set himself up in Philadelphia with what’s actually a pretty clever racket. He hires his gang out to commit murders. His customers pay off by purchasing fake paintings and cheap antiques at huge prices. That way, you could hire Ring to off your rich grandfather, but all the cops could pin on you was that you were dumb enough to buy a fake Fragonard.

But Ring didn’t count on the Shadow, though it’s actually the Shadow’s top agent, Harry Vincent, who first arrives in Philly. Harry does some investigating, but this gets him kidnapped by some of Ring’s thugs. A spunky girl who is herself looking into the gang’s latest murder almost gets whacked in the process, but the Shadow shows up in time to save her.

The Shadow takes up the investigation, dodging bullets when necessary (and, in one case, dodging the descending hammer of a dishonest auctioneer). He has a bad night at one point when a car chase leaves him with a wrecked vehicle and a slight concussion—but he’s THE SHADOW, gosh darn it, and this hardly slows him up at all. 

In the end, he outfights and outthinks the bad guy, pulling off a con that allows him to rescue Harry, take out the bad guys and save that spunky girl once more for good measure.

Most of Walter Gibson’s mind-numbingly fun Shadow novels average a 9.4 on the Bogart/Karloff Coolness scale. “Murder for Sale” actually only gets an 8.9, since twice depends on a very unlikely coincidence to allow the Shadow to keep on the trail of the villains. Gibson, well able to construct sound plots, usually does much better than that.

But despite its flaws, it’s still a fun read--an exuberant action/mystery with great action set pieces and a spunky girl. Spunky girls alone bring any work of pulp fiction up at least two-tenths of a point on the Bogart/Karloff scale.

So with the Hand diminished by 40%, the Shadow will soon be moving on to Chicago to see if he can clip off another finger.

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