E-Book: Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins, 2007, download from Wisconsin Digital Library.
I was in bed without my current book. I did not want to get up and hunt the book down so I pulled up this novel which I had checked out for my Scout camp-out a couple weeks ago.
I've read several comments by Collins about his Ms. Tree comic which he first published about 30 years ago. (Double checked: started publication in 1981. That makes it 38 years ago.) I never read the comic but I've read plenty of his novels. Since this is also a Hard Case Crime book how could I pass it up?
Ms. Tree is named Michael Tree. Her father was expecting a son and gave her a boy's name with a justification that "Hey, women have the name. Look at actress Michael Learned who played Olivia on The Waltons". When the novel begins Ms. Tree is speaking to her psychiatrist one year after Tree's husband (also named Michael Tree) was murdered on their wedding night. Ms. Tree killed her husband's killer and has been running their private investigation agency since.
Ms. Tree gets a call from a high priced defense attorney. Defense Attorney has a new case with a mentally unstable client who killed her husband and a prostitute. Defense Attorney believes the previously stable client was pushed into murdering her husband. He wants Tree to dig around and see what was going on.
After Ms. Tree takes the case she finds that the cops are surprisingly free with information and cutting red tape. Ms. Tree knows the Officer in charge of the investigation since she and her husband both quit the Chicago PD before starting their PI firm. The Officer says the murder has the hallmarks of a few other killings. Killings that are possibly the work of a rumored assassin who arranges killings that are written off for other reasons: crimes of passion, robberies, car wrecks. What's more is that the Officer thinks Ms. Tree's husband may have been a victim.
Ooooh. It's a double mystery! And another, third mystery of why a long-time colleague and co-partner in the firm quit the firm. And Ms. Tree's secret sexy-sexy relationship with another cop. And Ms. Tree getting in shoot-outs.
As usual Collins provides a nice story. I've not read any other work of his done with a female protagonist's POV. This also reads very much like a Mike Hammer novel and I recall Collins saying Tree was initially imagined as Mike's daughter - either literally or figuratively. The story plotting. The wise-ass PI with a violent streak. The reveal at the end. They all feel Hammerish and I enjoyed that.
Anyhoo. Shit. I just saw there is an afterword by Collins about Tree's creation. I'll read it later. A fun read and worth your time.
1.Ms. Tree as in Miz Tree as in Miz ter-ee as in Mystery as in How the fuck did I not notice that before?
2. The Hard Case Crime promos at back of the book mention Spillane's Dead Street. I thought I read that but apparently I heard the audio instead.
3. I think I am behind the Quarry novels. The Quarry novels are top notch.
EDIT: 7-6-19. A print copy of The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics (2008) just landed on my desk. There is a reprint of Ms Tree: maternity leave inside plus a couple Mickey Spillane authored comics. Every comic in the book is black and white. I wonder if they were that way originally or if reprinting in black and white was cheaper.