Friday, September 11, 2009

Forgotten Books: MURDER IN THE NAVY -- Richard Marsten

There's no getting around it: We have to start with the blurb, which is a great joke, at least to us, because we know that Evan Hunter, in addition to being a few other people, is also Richard Marsten. I don't know if it was his idea to blurb his own book or if someone at Gold Medal came up with it, but I like it.

In the opening chapter of the novel, a naval enlisted man kills a nurse. We see the events from the point of view of the killer, as we do in several chapters later on, but we don't know his name. The captain of the destroyer on which the murder occurs appoints a board of inquiry, and the FBI is called in. The leader of FBI duo just wants to get things over with, and so does the captain. When the killer strikes again, the blame for the first crime is pinned on the victim, who's judged a suicide. Everybody's happy except Chuck Masters, who's on the board. Nobody wants Masters to investigate further, but he does, of course.

There are plenty of familiar elements here, but Marsten handles them all expertly. The conclusion is typically '50s ("you poor girl"), but, hey, the book was written in the '50s. What would you expect? And if you want "superb suspense," Marsten's your man. Would Evan Hunter lie to you?


pattinase (abbott) said...

Who could give you a better blurb than yourself?

George said...

For some reason, this Richard Marsten/Evan Hunter classic didn't get reprinted as much as some of the other Evan Hunter/Ed McBain books. But, as you point out, it's well worth seeking out and reading.

Gerard Saylor said...

Didn't you mention Hunter doing something similar to this before? Maybe praising a Hunter book within a McBain book or something? Or maybe I read something like that in a McBain book.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I read this one back in 1977. I remember the setup but not the killer, so I suppose I could read it again.

Didn't Gore Vidal blurb his own "Edgar Box" books?

I know it's been done a number of other times.


Anonymous said...

Oh, this was also reprinted as Death of a Nurse, probably under the McBain name.


Jerry House said...

Many of the Ed McBain novels contain sly references to Hitchcock's The Birds and to Kurosawa's High and Low.