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Deadly Beloved
A Ms Tree mystery
Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime 2007
205 pages

The people at Hard Case Crime don’t come out and say it so I will: Deadly Beloved is a Ms. Tree mystery. That howler aside, this Max Allan Collins hard-boiled detective novel is a good read. As Collins writes at the beginning of chapter 4, “How often does a homicide lieutenant encourage a P.I. to get involved in a murder case?” Especially since the case is a slam dunk for the prosecution: wife empties a .38 into husband and hooker at a seedy motel.

Deadly Beloved is a fun, don’t think too hard and go along for the roller coaster ride, real page turner kind of hard-boiled mystery. Thinking too hard makes you question the little details and wonder why everybody in this Ms. Tree mystery (I can’t help it) is thirty five or so, even the police captain. This, however, could be because Ms. Tree is a graphic novel character and this is her first outing in paperback format: being the Ms. Tree graphic novel script writer Max Allan Collins had to play the hand he dealt himself.

Story wise Deadly Beloved reads like a real book and not some graphic novel knockoff. Ms. Michael Tree and some cops suspect the local mob is behind the death of the cheating husband and a few other convenient death and accidents courtesy of a clever hitman. Her husband, the late Michael Tree (yup, husband and wife have the same names) put away the mob boss. When she starts looking into what brought the wife to shoot her husband, she uncovers a few more things: you start digging around the mob, you are going to find skeletons. The concept behind the hits is really different and original.

One of the many aspects I liked about this Hard Case Crime paperback is the way Collins built his story by having Ms. Tree tell it to her shrink (who, of course, doesn’t say much but leads her on). I am totally unfamiliar with the graphic novel version of Ms. Tree but I am pretty certain the drawing to novel transition will please the character’s fans.

The ending is a bit abrupt and a bit out of the blue but it doesn’t take much away from this mystery. Sometimes all you want is a nice solid read: Deadly Beloved provides that.


Other Hard Case Crime reviews:

Laurence Block – Grifter’s Game

Stephen King – The Colorado Kid

Mickey Spillane – Dead Street

Richard Aleas – Songs of Innocence