Vintage Golden Age Mystery
Scavenger Hunt Category: A Brunette
Date Finished: March 29, 2017
Follow the Clues step #21: from Night to Night
A naval reserve officer, still suffering from some WWII PTSD, on his way to Norfolk after being called up for the Korean War is picked up hitchhiking by a talkative ship designer. It turns out that the ship designer has been blacklisted from his government job for being a Communist. Before reaching their destination, the officer is knocked unconscious and the car wrecked, with him inside. Awaking in the hospital, with his face heavily bandaged, the naval officer is thought to be the ship designer as their suits and identification have been switched. He continues to play along with the switch, as the beautiful young wife of the ship designer soon arrives to take him home. She thinks she has shot and killed the ship designer, so he begins to help her cover that up. Suspicious neighbors, as well as the doctor who is in love with the young wife, are on the scene, as the naval officer tumbles on to a Communist cell communication scheme.
Republished recently in the Hard Case Crime series, there are many reviewers who find this plot implausible. Well, sure, and perhaps the ending is a bit disappointing, but it still is a gripping story with some very flawed characters. Not as brutal as later Hamilton Matt Helm novels, the lead character is perhaps more brutal in his judgement of himself than through his actions on others.