“Lieutenant,” he said, and shook his head sorrowfully. “I been on a lot of cases with you and this one started out the same as the others.” A bashful look spread across his repulsive face for a moment. “Three gorgeous dames and all! But look how you let it wind up.” Stunned shock replaced the bliss. “The real cute bally-dancer is a corpse; you booked the big bouncy blonde for complicity in murder and a whole string of minor charges and then – “ he shook his head in mute despair “- you go book the stringy brunette with them bedroom eyes for attempted murder and all! I mean,” he gargled incoherently, “this is the first time ever I saw you wind up a case without a dame, Lieutenant!”
Lieutenant Al Wheeler, while a member of the broader police force has a tendency to act as a lone PI in the Mike Hammer mould. He’s ruthless in his pursuit of justice and equally devoted to the finer sex. In THE DANCE OF DEATH Wheeler is called out to an apparent suicide where a male ballerina is found swinging from a tree on a wealthy secluded estate. True to form, the list of suspects is confined to the premises, those within the deceased immediate vicinity. It’s a matter of Wheeler going through the motions to determine the killer.
There’s not a lot that distinguishes THE DANCE OF DEATH from other Al Wheeler investigations. The plot follows a tried and true formula, the dames as descriptive and deceptive as the other books. Yet I still can’t get enough of Carter Brown’s Aussie pulp goodness.
The redeeming quality of THE DANCE OF DEATH is that is does finish in a flurry of layered twists with the murderer and their intentions chopping and changing as new facts and players come to light.
Fans of pulp will eat this up in a single sitting (as I did) and feel immediately satisfied. THE DANCE OF DEATH is very much a McDonalds for the mind – it’s easy to read, follows a single plot thread; it personifies all the simplicity of a pulp written in the golden age.