Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The Blonde Died First -- Dana Chambers
You don't hear much about Dana Chambers these days. In fact, you don't hear anything at all, and Chambers isn't mentioned in any of the reference books I have handy. But in the 1940s, Chambers was a prolific and well-reviewed writer of medium-boiled mysteries. The Blonde Died First is narrated in the first person by Jim Steele, who's supposedly a successful script writer for radio, though we just have to take his word for it. There's nothing in the novel to prove it. Steele is a series character, and this isn't his first appearance. I gather that he was a pretty successful spy at one time since he has the Medal of Honor. But in this one, he's just a guy trying to solve a couple of murders, including that of the blonde of the title. (The title, by the way, is a clue.) Most of the book takes place on a cruise ship, and there's quite a bit of action, a complicated plot, and Steele's smooth narration to carry you along. Things get really kinky by the end of the book, surprisingly so, I thought, for a novel published in the '40s, but maybe I'm just naive. I have a couple of other books by Dana Chambers, and I guess it's time I read them.