Tuesday, February 4, 2014

DOAN & CARSTAIRS WEEK - Day 2: The Mouse in the Mountain (1943)

A little over two years after their debut in "Holocaust House" (HERE), our heroes hit the big time in in this Morrow Mystery.

Doan (no first name given) is an agency detective sent to the sleepy Mexican village of Los Altos to convince a refugee from the law to remain there – or so it seems. Doan is fat, soft-looking, mild-mannered and seemingly harmless. But he’s also quick as a snake, a deadly shot, a great liar and unconcerned with scruples.

With him is Carstairs, the Great Dane he won in a crap game. While Great Danes are normally big, Carstairs bigger, more on the lines of a horse, and described as “sort of a new species.”  He’s cranky, vain, and obstinate, but obeys commands such as  “Up-si-daisy”, “Boom”,  and “Hike” when he feels like it.  He and Doan make a great team.

And these two are only the beginning of this book’s wacky characters. Almost everyone in Davis's cockeyed world is either goofy or somewhat larcenous. The closest thing I know of in contemporary fiction is I.J. Parnham’s Fergus and Randolph western series, which I reviewed HERE.

The Mouse in the Mountain (1943) appeared as Rendezvous with Fear in Great Britain (or so I'm told, as I've never seen a copy. Can anyone send me a scan?), and was abridged for Handi-Books as Dead Little Rich Girl.

Doan's somewhat less-than-legal mission is to persuade a dirty cop not to return to the U.S. to face justice. He runs into trouble, of course, in the form of crooks, murderers, would-be revolutionaries, overzealous soldiers, a monster in kid-form, an earthquake and, certainly not least, a romantically-minded female.

Unlike "Holocaust House" (discussed yesterday), Carstairs is along for the whole story. Unfortunately, both Doan and the dog are offscreen a good portion of the time, making way for the romantically-minded American female and the conceited Mexican secret service officer. And while considerable mention is made of Doan's ruthless and deadly nature, but we actually see very little of it. Thankfully, we'll see plenty in the next book, Sally's in the Alley. 

Another factor that makes this less wonderful than Sally's in the Alley (the penultimate Doan & Carstairs novel) is the Mexican setting. Sure, it's exotic, but seeing Davis poke fun at Mexico is not as much fun as seeing him poke fun at the USofA, as he does to perfection in Sally's.

Like "Holocaust House," The Mouse in the Mountain has been reprinted in several print and ebook formats. You can download a free electronic copy from Munseys.com HERE.

The schedule for DOAN & CARSTAIRS Week goes like so:
MONDAY: "Holocaust House" (1940). That's HERE.
TODAY: The Mouse in the Mountain (1943)
WEDNESDAY: Sally's in the Alley (1943)
THURSDAY: Oh, Murderer Mine (1946)
FRIDAY: The lost (or at least forgotten) novelette "Cry Murder!" (1944) Read it here!

You'll find "Never Say Die," a Norbert Davis story from Detective Fiction WeeklyHERE.
And "One Man Died," a Davis novelette from DFW, is HERE.


Cap'n Bob said...

I read this and Sally, and one other a couple of years back and enjoyed them. It's hard to write in a dog who isn't obtrusive or a pain in the ass or too cute to live, but Carstairs is none of those.

Rick Robinson said...

I enjoyed Mouse, haven't yet read the others.