Dead Heat: A Shell Scott Novel by Richard S. Prather

Title: Dead Heat: A Shell Scott Novel

Author: Richard S. Prather

Format: Paperback Edition, Pocket Books

Published: 1964


The Shell Scott series of books is a sort of shotgun type crap shoot for me.  I absolutely love some of the books and can barely stomach crawling through the pages of others.  Part of that I know is a personal issue of mine, as, although I don’t mind my mysteries to have humor and even be a bit screwball at times, I can’t really say I like books that are so tongue in cheek about what they are that they choke on themselves.  Some of the entries into the Scott series fall into that category.  I am pleased, though, to say that Dead Heat is definitely not one of the bad ones.

Scott is hired by a risk taking investor to look into whether or not the genius behind a company that has great earning potential is actually guilty of embezzling, which he’s been convicted of, or not.  Scott is also informed that he is not the first Private Eye hired for this case, his predecessor, someone Scott knew, being murdered recently at the racetrack while working on this same matter.  So, due both to his own investigative curiosity as well as the interesting way in which Scott will be paid if he is successful at proving the embezzler innocent, Prather’s white haired hero goes to work.

Immediately, upon reading the first page, Scott encounters perhaps some of the most interesting and odd characters ever to grace the pages of a detective novel.  From a rather shapely secretary who mangles the English language and seems to enjoy it to a wide assortment of criminal types, one of which seems to have also become quite the investor, every character in this book is both well defined and just over the top enough to be a true gas.

Although there is a mystery here to be solved, and one that is telegraphed just enough and yet still gives the reader a good wind up, Dead Heat is Scott doing what Scott does best- barreling and sometimes stumbling from hint to clue and back until something breaks and bleeds all over him.  Prather delivers a taut tale that is equal parts detecting, brawling, and balls to the wall fun tough guy.

Four out of Five Pages for Dead Heat. Pretty much a hit in every way, but still not quite up to the par with the other examples in the field.

For my own gun, five out of six bullets.  Probably the second or third best Scott I’ve read.

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