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Mike Hammer: Masquerade for Murder


Mike Hammer: Masquerade for Murder

It is interesting to note that the number of Mike Hammer collaborations between Max Allan Collins and the late Mickey Spillane is close to meeting and exceeding the collection of Hammer novels that the legendary Spillane wrote and published during his lifetime. Spillane’s spirit and characters live on, thanks to the seemingly inexhaustible Collins, who in addition to his own consistently fine work has continued to build the Hammer canon by initially utilizing unfinished manuscripts and then synopses of ideas that Spillane left behind. Collins has done so with nary a hiccup, demonstrating that Spillane knew what he was doing when he bequeathed them to him.

The newly published MASQUERADE FOR MURDER is the latest of the Spillane/Collins collaborations. The first few pages sink the hook immediately for both the longtime fan and the first impressionist. The scene --- a (pre-)retirement get-together at a legendary New York restaurant in the late 1980s --- is sedate but is described in prose that is easily some of Collins’ best writing. Hammer is in the middle of dinner when he is introduced to Vincent Colby, a prominent mover and shaker in his family’s brokerage firm who is well known for being a man about town. It is Hammer’s first encounter with Colby, but it won’t be his last.

"For readers of a younger age, Collins may become as synonymous with the Hammer character as Spillane was and is for seasoned fans. If that happens, it will be because he has earned it."

Hammer and Colby happen to leave the restaurant at the same time, which puts Hammer in a position to witness Colby being struck by a sports car in a hit-and-run. Colby is bruised, though not battered, and manages to walk away on what is more or less his own steam. There is something about the mishap, though, that doesn’t sit right with Hammer, even if he can’t quite wrap his head around what it is. He is nonetheless compelled to investigate due to his internal code of honor, which demands that he do something about it because it happened right in front of him and he has a reputation to maintain.

Velda, Hammer’s secretary, office partner and significant other, is there to contribute, tease and, yes, serve as some very attractive motivation for Hammer, even as she ineffectively tries to warn him off from dangerous activities. Ironically, Colby’s father retains Hammer to investigate the incident, which results in Hammer becoming entangled in a series of murders involving a stuntman, a call girl and a police inspector. There does not appear to be any connection among the victims, other than the somewhat bizarre method used to dispatch each of them.

Hammer utilizes his usual manner of investigation --- kicking over rocks and knocking on and down doors --- but his most effective asset is his canny ability to follow slender evidentiary threads wherever they may go, even when the path is not immediately obvious. Of course, he is never too busy to appreciate the local scenery and describe it, an element of these novels that is indispensable.

For readers of a younger age, Collins may become as synonymous with the Hammer character as Spillane was and is for seasoned fans. If that happens, it will be because he has earned it. My guess is that Spillane, if he were alive, would be overjoyed by that occurrence. Read MASQUERADE FOR MURDER and see why.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 20, 2020

Mike Hammer: Masquerade for Murder
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

  • Publication Date: March 17, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Hard-boiled Mystery, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books
  • ISBN-10: 1785655566
  • ISBN-13: 9781785655562