It was hot work, trudging across the desert to the Mexican border Danny was thankful when Doc Gaynor pulled up and gave him a lift But not for long not after they stopped for gas and he found the old doc bending over the hood, dead Tough Sheriff Virgil Keep collared Danny as the killer and threw him in the local jail, a bad spot for a teenager with a secret But Danny knew what was up he d seen the little guy in the trenchcoat, he d seen the long black car, and he knew when to keep his mouth shut Helen Nielsen s intricately plotted novel involves a cast of Agatha Christie like characters set loose or imprisoned in an eerie, unfriendly landscape The embittered Trace Cooper, the moon struck Ada Keep, sharp eared bartender Murphy, the foolish Francy, high powered lawyer Laurent, the frightened Danny, a kid who shouldn t be caught up in murder There s never been a night yet that didn t end writes Helen Nielsen But for Danny Ross, this one didn t look good


10 thoughts on “Detour

  1. Dave Dave says:

    One of the great things that Prologue Books has done is introduce a new generation of readers to forgotten writers from the great age of the pulps There were few women writers of pulps and mysteries during that age and fewer still that did not write under pen names Helen Nielsen wrote about a dozen novels from the 1940 s through to the 1970 s, including The Brink of Murder, Dead on the Level, and Sing Me A Murder She is, however, most well known for being a screenwriter for Alfred Hitchcock P One of the great things that Prologue Books has done is introduce a new generation of readers to forgotten writers from the great age of the pulps There were few women writers of pulps and mysteries during that age and fewer still that did not write under pen names Helen Nielsen wrote about a dozen novels from the 1940 s through to the 1970 s, including The Brink of Murder, Dead on the Level, and Sing Me A Murder She is, however, most well known for being a screenwriter for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Perry Mason Her pulp writings often featured either a Mike Shelly, a hardboiled detective, or a female detective Detour to Death features neither of these It is nevertheless an excellent book The basic plot for Detour to Death is familiar to most pulp readers A man, through no fault of his own, becomes the chief suspect in a murder and, while he is on the run from the law, other bodies fall in his path and he is the chief suspect in those murders as well He stands friendless, alone, unable to prove his innocence until the end of the story Most of the time this plot is found in New York, Chicago, or Philadelphia if it is a David Goodis story What is wonderful and unique about Detour to Death is that the familiar plot is not played out in familiar territory The entire story takes place in a small, desolate town in the west and the murder at the center of the story is of the town s popular doctor, a man everyone loved, and the entire town is arrayed against the protagonist Who is the protagonist of this story Danny Ross, a young kid of nearly eighteen, who had set out from Chicago and was headed down to Mexico to start life over His seventeen year old jalopy had given out and, after pushing it to the side of the road, he thumbed a ride with the doctor Danny was barely eighteen Eighteen and skinny in a pair of tight Levi s and an old leather jacket, with his sun bleached hair cut a quick two inches from his scalp, and his tanned face marked with anger and pride Danny wasn t running away from life he was running toward it This is a well written story that surprisingly, despite its bleak and desolate location, draws the reader in quickly to a mystery that gets ever deeper It is a terrific read and highly recommended


  2. John John says:

    The novel I read directly before this one was Charles Williams s Nothing in Her Way , and when I got to the end of it I thought, Golly They don t make yer classic hardboiled too much better than that Imagine my delight, then, dear reader, on immediately afterwards encountering this novel, which is at the very least every bit as good.Eighteen year old Danny Ross is heading south for Mexico, hoping to lose himself there, when his jalopy breaks down Reckoning his sole course of action is to The novel I read directly before this one was Charles Williams s Nothing in Her Way , and when I got to the end of it I thought, Golly They don t make yer classic hardboiled too much better than that Imagine my delight, then, dear reader, on immediately afterwards encountering this novel, which is at the very least every bit as good.Eighteen year old Danny Ross is heading south for Mexico, hoping to lose himself there, when his jalopy breaks down Reckoning his sole course of action is to make for the border on foot, he pushes the dead car into a ditch and starts walking But he s in luck A car stops and its driver, elderly Doc Gaynor, offers Danny a lift as far as the small, dying town of Cooperton Danny leaps at the chance, because Cooperton is halfway from here to the borderbut soon he s wishing he hadn t, because when they stop at a roadhouse Doc Gaynor is murdered and Danny finds that he s Suspect 1 in the eyes of Cooperton s brutal Sheriff Virgil Keep, not to mention the local population, who re by no means bright and who reckon the best place for Danny would be dangling from a tree .In addition to being a good hardboiled tale, and with so many examples of quite beautiful writing that I soon stopped trying to keep count of them, this offers a genuine mystery populated by vivid characters In fact, I worked out the mystery component of it all a little while before Danny and his few allies did, but it was genuinely only a little while and until that moment I d been treated to plenty of thoroughly exhilarating bamboozlements Even without those, this would have been a splendidly engaging novel, because I became completely involved in Danny s plight as someone whose only real crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet who might very easily suffer a brutal death solely because of that.Objections a As I say, I solved the mystery a little before our heroes did b Also, the very end of the book offers us a somewhat trite, return to the status quo finale that I could have done without c In a couple of instances I wasn t sure if the author was savagely satirizing the vomitworthy racism of the 1950s American South or just accepting it.But it was only after I d put the book down that I thought of any of these things


  3. Rusty Rusty says:

    Enjoyable locked room mystery, except the room is the town of Cooperton Great cast of characters.


  4. Charles Charles says:

    Much better than average.