Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Snake, by Mickey Spillane

(pb; 1964)


Mike Hammer is reunited with his dream-woman, Velda, who once disappeared and was thought dead. (Her disappearance caused Hammer to spiral into a seven-year drunk. Much of these events are recounted in an earlier Hammer book, The Girl Hunters, when Hammer dried out and resumed his case- and nose-busting ways.)

However, Hammer and Velda's amorous reunion is interrupted -- as usual -- by gun-toting hoods who seem to be working for two different interests.

Of course, Hammer and Velda get out of that scrape with their skins barely intact. Hammer quickly surmises that the hoods aren't gunning for Velda, but Sue Torrence, Lotlita-like step-daughter of politician Simpson "Sim" Torrence. Velda has been letting Sue crash at her place, though the girl has nutty ideas -- for example, Sue thinks her step-father is trying to kill her.

This opening-page action draws Hammer, Velda, and Pat Chambers (Hammer's police captain ex-friend and Velda's ex-lover) into a case that goes back thirty years, a robbery that resulted in a missing crook and the disappearance of three million dollars.

Could the missing crook (Black Conley) and the missing millions have something to do with those two opening-page gunmen? Why are so many top-notch Syndicate killers suddenly flocking into town at the same time? And how do the Torrences (Sue and Sim) tie into all this?

Like other Hammer novels, the action, characters, sleaze and situations in The Snake are kicked into plot overdrive, always consistent and plausible. Hammer is as canny, fallible and tough as tough guys come, usually one step ahead of the bad guys (who are easy to spot this time out).

By all means, check this out.

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