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DAMNED IN PARADISE by Max Allan Collins


by Max Allan Collins

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1996
ISBN: 0-525-94225-4
Publisher: Dutton

You wouldn't expect to find Clarence Darrow defending a quartet of vigilantes who shot a man a jury hadn't been able to convict of rape, but that's exactly what he spent the winter of 193132 doing—and, according to Collins's fictionalization, Nathan Heller, on leave from the Chicago police department, was at his side. It's a great side to be at, not only because Darrow's fame can't help giving Nate a boost, but because the setting is Hawaii in the days before the crowds of tourists arrive (though in plenty of time to reflect the islands' troubled new mix of cultures). Darrow's been hired to defend Navy wife Thalia Massie's husband and society mother, along with a fireman and seaman accused of taking part in shooting Joe Kahahawai, one of four accused kidnappers and rapists still free largely because of Thalia's selective memory. Nate gets a chance to practice safe, frequent sex even before the ship docks, and offers an unusually personal glimpse of why he'll end up leaving the Chicago force to found the A-1 Detective Agency. But most of his investigation—despite the tropical skies and the celebrity cameos (including Buster Crabbe and the entertaining real-life prototype for Charlie Chan)—is routine. Solid mid-grade work, well below the heights of Nate's seventh novel (Blood and Thunder, 1995, etc.)—mostly because the mystery is consistently less interesting than the oil-and-water cast of proletarians and socialites.