I've seen Robert Barnard's books around for many years but never read any of them. So with this being Robert Barnard Week on Forgotten Books, I gave one a try...then another, and another. I didn't like or finish any of them, so sadly I have to say that Barnard just isn't an author for me. However, I thought that I still ought to read a mystery novel by a British author, and Alan G. Yates was born in England, right?
So that brings us to THE DEEP COLD GREEN, another entry in the long-running
series written by Yates (and possibly a few ghosts) under the name Carter
Brown. The Carter Brown books feature several different characters, and this
one stars the one who's probably my favorite, police lieutenant Al Wheeler. As
a bonus, it has a nice McGinnis cover, as most of the Carter Brown books from
that era do.
As the book opens, Al is in Reno, Nevada, on his way back to his hometown of
Pine City from a vacation. A beautiful redhead named Tracy barges into his room
looking for a ride back to Pine City, but hot on her heels are a couple of
bruisers who have come to take her back to her husband, professional gambler
and casino owner Dane Tenison. They back off when they find out Al is a cop. Al
and Tracy leave Reno together, but Tracy promptly disappears after they spend
one night together. According to the motel clerk, she left on her own in a
rental car, so Al doesn't think there's anything suspicious about her
Back in Pine City, though, a body washes up on the beach a week later, and
wouldn't you know it? The dead woman is Tracy Tenison. Or is she? Al quickly
discovers that Tracy has a lookalike sister named Louise. It appears that
Louise was only pretending to be Tracy back in Reno, because in actuality she
was carrying on an affair with her sister's husband.
After that, things start to get a little complicated.
The Carter Brown books don't have much of a reputation anymore, but they
usually featured complex plots that provided a genuine challenge for whichever
detective was in that book to figure out. Most of the time, they even made
sense. This tale involving several beautiful women, a murder frame-up, and the
world of professional high-stakes gambling races right along in Yates'
smart-alecky prose to an action-packed finale at sea. He even tries to put in a
few poetic touches here and there and for the most part succeeds. Al Wheeler is
a likable narrator/hero, and I always enjoy his adventures.
THE DEEP COLD GREEN was published in 1968, and it's a little more graphic
sexually than the earlier Carter Brown books but not as pornographic as the
ones from the Seventies. The whole Swinging Sixties atmosphere makes it read a
little like a historical novel now. It's hard to believe more than forty years
have passed since then. One thing hasn't changed, though: I read and enjoyed
Carter Brown books back in those days, and from time to time I still do. This
one's worth checking out if you're a fan and haven't read it yet.