Friday, November 4, 2016

The Fallen Sparrow by Dorothy B. Hughes

Kit McKittrick was back in New York. He had fought in the Spanish war, and was then held prisoner for two years until he escaped. He had been recovering in the western US, but when he learned that his friend, policeman Louie Lepetino, was dead, Kit had to return to find out what had happened.

Now he was back in the New York world he knew. The world of money, of high-class women, and posh residences. He had been in love with Barbara Taviton before he went to Spain. When he went to see her on his first night back, she was at a benefit for refugees from the war (It is 1942). She seemed pleased to see him, but she seemed equally pleased to see Otto Skaas who was young, blond, and seemed to be more a member of the Luftwaffe than a refugee. Otto was in the US with his uncle Christian Skaas, who was a noted chemist and Nobel prize winner.

Kit heard that the police thought that Louie had committed suicide by jumping from a window. Kit and Louie's family didn't believe this but thought that Louie had been pushed out of the window. Kit found Content Hamilton, a singer and sister of Kit's good friend Abner Hamilton. Abner had also been in love with Barbara Taviton, but had stepped aside for Kit. Now Abner was working in the State Department decoding messages. Kit had also introduced Louie to Barbara Taviton, and Louie did have an eye for beautiful women.

Kit would find that events from his time in Spain would result in his being watched in New York. Kit seemed to know the location of something very valuable from his days in Spain. He was being pursued by a person whom he called Wobblefoot. He had never seen this person but had  heard these footsteps in the prison in Spain, and now he heard them in New York.  He grew to suspect everyone that he came in contact with of being in some kind of conspiracy against him.

This novel has a complex plot with a number of very suspicious characters. It takes place during World II when it was very easy to suspect refugees of being spies. Kit was essentially a moral man who didn't like violence, but he would use it if it was absolutely necessary.  He grew to suspect everyone around him, and carried a couple of guns just in case. This is a very noir mystery novel, and will appeal to those readers who enjoy this genre.

Dorothy B. Hughes started writing mystery novels in the 1940's. These were mostly hard-boiled, noir fiction, and were quite popular. The Fallen Sparrow was published in 1942 and was made into a movie in 1943 which starred John Garfield and Maureen O'Sullivan. Hughes reviewed mysteries for several publications and she received an Edgar award for mystery criticism, and in 1978 she received the Grand Master of Mystery Award.

I have read this book for the 2016 Golden Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt in the category of a book with a bird on the cover. Used copies of this book are still available.

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