Wednesday, February 5, 2014

DOAN & CARSTAIRS WEEK - DAY 3: Sally's in the Alley (1943)

Sally’s in the Alley is where the Doan & Carstairs series shifts into high gear.

In our heroes’ two earlier adventures, “Holocaust House” (HERE) and The Mouse in the Mountain (HERE), the author and supporting characters kept telling us that the amiable, harmless-looking, almost cherubic detective Doan was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, thoroughly unscrupulous and lightning with a gun. We got a glimpse or two of Doan’s true nature, but he kept it pretty well masked.

Carstairs, meanwhile, had some great scenes, but took a back seat to some of the less interesting members of the supporting cast. As one of the most unique characters in mystery fiction, he deserved more time on stage.

Sally’s in the Alley is the book where both Doan and Carstairs reach their full potential - and it’s a great mystery to boot.

It’s wartime, and Doan is hiding from responsibility in a fleabag hotel under the name H. Pocus. Federal agents track him down, and recruit - or more properly coerce - him into carrying out a vital mission in the Mojave Desert. A crusty old prospector, it seems, knows the location of a hidden ore deposit, and the government thinks Doan (with the persuasive powers of Carstairs) is just the guy to con the guy into revealing it. He’s to impersonate a Japanese spy and offer the old coot a fabulous sum of money.

First stop is a town called Heliotrope, on the California-Nevada border. Which state the town’s in is under dispute, because the place is so dangerous that neither state will claim it. Doan fits right in, of course. He checks into the local hotel under the name I. Doanwashi, and tells everyone he meets he’s a Japanese spy.

That’s when bodies start piling up, and those Doan doesn’t make himself he manages to pin on someone else. As usual, there are plenty of quirky characters, including a movie star named Susan Sally, who, contrary to the title, does not end up in an alley.

The Norbert Davis brand of humor is on display throughout, and here are three prime examples:

The three screen captures above are from the Kindle version of this book available free at You can get that HERE

Here's the lowdown on DOAN & CARSTAIRS Week:
MONDAY: "Holocaust House" (1940)  HERE.
TUESDAY: The Mouse in the Mountain (1943)  HERE
TODAY: Sally's in the Alley (1943)
THURSDAY: Oh, Murderer Mine (1946)
FRIDAY: The novelette most Doan & Carstairs fans have never seen: "Cry Murder!" (1944) Read the whole thing here.

"Never Say Die," a Norbert Davis story from Detective Fiction Weekly, appears HERE.
And you'll find "One Man Died," a Davis novelette from DFWHERE.


Rittster said...

I, at this moment, am shamefacedly caricaturing a Japanese: squinting, making buck teeth, and shouting, "I Doanwashi! I Doanwashi!"
As for Chapter 15, Hollywood has definitely gone downhill since then. I think what it needs is a good old fashioned dim-out, which of course precipitates a good old fashioned war--and being a resident of the place, I can almost say it would be worth it.

Great review!

Shay said...

I have to say that Doan came across as pretty lethal in 'Holocaust House.' In an off-hand sort of way but still pretty badass.