This early (1952) novel by Ed Lacy was published by Eton Books, an imprint of Avon. I don’t think I’ve ever run across any Eton Books before, so when I found this one last week at Recycled Books in Denton, of course I had to buy it. I read it over the weekend.
It starts out as pretty standard stuff. Tough private eye Matt Ranzino returns to his home town (an unnamed city on the west coast) after serving in the army during the Korean War. He discovers that his former partner, who was sort of a shady character to start with, has turned downright crooked and is involved in an elaborate blackmail scheme. The ex-partner has also taken up with Matt’s ex-girlfriend. Matt is unsure whether or not he wants to be a PI again, but before you know it, he’s mixed up in a complicated murder-suicide case. But then Lacy takes what could have been a generic Fifties private eye novel and turns most of the conventions of such tales upside-down. Matt Ranzino turns out not to be the usual tough guy PI after all. I can’t say much more than that without ruining the book, but those of you who have read some of Lacy’s other novels (I hadn’t) or even read much about him can probably guess some of what I’m talking about.
I have to give Lacy, whose real name was Leonard Zinberg, credit for trying to do something different, but as far as I’m concerned SIN IN THEIR BLOOD is a book that’s more interesting than good. Everything is so heavy-handed that it just didn’t work for me. However, the prose is very slick and fast-paced, and the ending is so over-the-top that it almost saves the whole book. I enjoyed this novel enough despite its flaws that I wouldn’t hesitate to read more by Lacy. That’s good, because over the years I’ve acquired a lot of his books.