Marvin Albert was both prolific and talented and turned out a steady stream of very good to excellent mystery, adventure, and Western novels for more than three decades. In the late Fifties and early Sixties, he wrote six novels featuring New York City private eye Jake Barrow, using the pseudonym Nick Quarry. I've known about these books for many years but have never gotten around to reading any of them until now. The great Black Gat Books line is reprinting THE GIRL WITH NO PLACE TO HIDE, widely regarded as one of the best Jake Barrow books.
It gets off to a promising start with Jake, our narrator/protagonist, watched a very provocative dance act in a nightclub. He's in the company of a friend of his, a prizefight manager whose boxer has an important bout coming up. A short time later, Jake runs into a beautiful dame who has a thug trying to kill her. Jake rescues the woman, of course, and lets her hide out in his apartment while he tries to get the story of her trouble out of her. But before he can do so, he's decoyed out of the place on what sounds like an important case, and when he gets back after finding he's been tricked, the gal is gone. Jake, you really should have seen that coming.
In classic private eye fashion, of course, Jake's not going to the woman's disappearance go uninvestigated, and so, over the course of the next few days and 180 or so pages, Albert really pours on the complications. You've got a murder involving a garment district tycoon, the death of a photographer, some brutal, corrupt cops, several beautiful women, and a bunch of gangsters and thugs and gamblers. Jake gets beaten up, tortured, and knocked out numerous times. But he always bounces back from whatever punishment the bad guys dish out and keeps digging for the truth.
There's nothing in this book you haven't read before in plenty of other Fifties private eye novels. In fact, at times it almost seems like Albert has overloaded it with plot elements. But he juggles them all very skillfully and, in the end, weaves everything together in a pretty clever solution. Jake Barrow is a good protagonist, smart and reasonably tough. He reminded me of a somewhat less intense Mike Hammer, and in fact, this could have been a Mickey Spillane yarn. There are some brutal but very effective action scenes along the way.
THE GIRL WITH NO PLACE TO HIDE is a front porch book, and as you know, that's a pretty high rating for me. If I'd read it back in the Sixties, sitting on my parents' front porch, I really would've been flipping the pages to find out who was going to try to kill Jake next and how far he was going to get with the luscious dames he keeps running into. It was just great fun, and if you're a fan of private eye novels, it's well worth reading. The Black Gat edition is available for pre-order.