Customer Reviews: Doan & Carstairs Mysteries, Book Four: Oh, Murderer Mine (The delightful mystery classic! 4)
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VINE VOICEon June 9, 2010
Unfortunately, Norbert Davis, the author of OH,MURDER MINE, is not as well known as other pulp fiction writers of the 1940's for three reasons. First, his stories encompassed a wide array of genres, so he never built a reputation as a practitioner of a specific type (e.g. detective, SF, etc.) . Second, his detective stories included a strain of humor which was highly unusual for the period, a hard boiled detective story was not supposed to be funny. Third, he committed suicide at age 40, supposedly after he had been diagnosed with cancer. Thus, his potential literary legacy was truncated. However, among his peers he was regarded as in a class with the best writers of the era, including Hammett and McDonald. He graduated from Stanford with a law degree, but never took the bar exam - choosing instead to pursue a career which he had already established by being published while still in college, usually being paid at the going rate of a penny a word. Hopefully, the advent of ebooks and specialized small presses will allow many more potential fans to enjoy his works and dog lovers will be irresistably drawn to Carstairs' collaborations with Doan.

This is the last of Davis' stories featuring the hardboiled detective DOAN and his Sidekick CARSTAIRS, a Great Dane the size of a Shetland Pony. It was published in 1946, and after greatly enjoying the few stories about the duo which were published before Davis' suicide, I feel a sense of loss that the duo's adventures were prematurely ended by Davis' death. Given the obviously boundless limits of Davis' imagination and his keen powers of observation regarding human frailties, the duo easily could have become a staple of the genre.

This story takes place on a college campus, where we first meet Melissa Gregory, an anthropolgy instructor at Breckenridge University. She soon has a confrontation Eric Trent, a meterologist who has just joined the faculty, and for whom Doan is acting as bodyguard. Why? You'll have to read the story to discover the answer. They and Melissa's fellow faculty member and boyfriend Frank Ames are the only four relatively normal individuals in a book populated with such characters as among others Professor Sly-Myrick (a refugee from the Gestapo), Heloise of Hollywood (who "radiated as much warmth as a diamond"), President T. Ballard Bestwyck, the Aldrich twins, Beulah Porter Cowys, Deputy Humphrey (no one is this dumb), Herbert "Big Tub" Tremaine, Bumbershoot Bennie, and Sebastian Rodriguez y Ruiz. In addition, Handsome Lover Boy got his name is integral to the plot. Many of these individuals are caricatures rather than characters, but it is all in fun - unless they happen to get killed as several do.

Davis' plot involves at least as much misdirection as in the earlier stories, but in this one it seemed almost incidental to his parody of campus life and the convoluted backstories of his characters. At first it was a letdown after reading the earlier stories which were structured more as detective procedurals, but after I realized it was simply a lighthearted episode of the adventures of Doan and Carstairs allowing Davis to poke fun at the culture of the period I was able to just smile and enjoy it.

A lot of the humor in this episode is much more slapstick than in the previous stories, at times could have sen this Carstairs being a model for Marmaduke as detective. Relative to the other books in the series, I found it difficult to rate this book, so depending on your interests you might rate it very differently than I did. My rating is composed of the following elements -
Humor - 5 stars
Carstairs (for dog lovers)- 5 star quality but not enough face time, he and Doan form a good team
Parody of Campus Politics - 5 stars
Weird Characters - 5 Stars
Plot - probably 4 stars if you like misdirection
Romance- an over the top 3 stars, no suspense here
Narrative - 3 stars

So, read this if you want to have fun for a couple of hours! And, of course, Carstairs is his usual superior self and he and Doan once again make an unstoppable duo.

Tucker Andersen 6/9/2010
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VINE VOICEon December 11, 2010
A glimpse into what could have been an extremely entertaining series, as Norbert Davis really hit his stride with this one. In the tradition of Jonathan Lattimer, this is a screwball mystery, featuring the majestic Great Dane Carstairs, who has a great deal to say about things, and a cast of other characters. Sadly, Mr. Davis took his life at a young age and we are left to imagine what might have been had he continued this series.

Well worth reading.
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on September 19, 2014
Love Doan and Carstairs. Wish there were more of them to read. The writing is from a different genre and so refreshing. The situations they get into are amazing and their reactions are so funny. Doan has Carstairs well trained or is it the other way around--lol. They always get their man but it is great reading as how they get to that point. Great characters.
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on April 28, 2014
This book keeps jumping out and reaching for a solution. Then it gives you an ending you never imagined. At least I never caught on. A lot of suspense in this book to keep you entertained. There is a romance developing, a dog with his own personality and a foreign dignitary. The bodyguard is a character
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on November 17, 2012
As with the other Doan and Carstairs books, this one is funny, witty and smart and I enjoyed it from start to finish. The author knew how to create three-dimensional characters that you enjoy reading about and following along. And Carstairs is the star of the show! Rarely do I really like the trick of adding an animal into a story and making them the smartest of the bunch but Doan and Carstairs are true partners with their quirks and personalities. It was a pleasure to read and I'm only sad that there aren't more of them.
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on February 18, 2015
Carstairs is my kind of dog! Without him, Detective Doan would have a very difficult time in solving the mystery. Trust me, Carstairs has got it goin' on and oftentimes much to the chagrin of Dectective Doan. I wish there were more books in the series.........
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on March 8, 2013
The Doan & Carstairs books are a wonderful read. There is subtle humor and a quirky twist in each story anew. Highly recommend them. Personally I love a book that features believable characters who do unexpected believable things. The dog is a riot! Congratulations to Norbert Davis on creating these two beautiful characters.
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on November 21, 2014
Norbert Davis was an American author from Morrison, Illinois. Born 1909, he died 1949 – an apparent suicide.

I have had him on my radar for a while, but more for his Max Latin stories which appeared regularly in the magazines of the day…….Black Mask, Dime Detective, Double Detective and Argosy.

He wrote four Doan and Carstairs books of which, Oh Murderer Mine is the third. Published in 1946 it’s my read for Rich of Past Offences’ monthly meme. Click the link on the year to see who has been reading what for 1946.

Doan is a private investigator, Carstairs is his Great Dane. The duo have been engaged by the famous and much older, Heloise of Hollywood to babysit her younger and attractive husband, Eric Trent. Trent has just secured a position in the meteorology department at Breckenbridge University.

We meet Melissa Gregory, an anthropology lecturer. She’s on her way back to her offices, which she has unknowingly been evicted from in favour of Eric. This immediately brings the two into conflict. Later Melissa gets knocked out and Doan gets shot at when pursuing the culprit. After he disappears, the body of Frank Ames is discovered. Melissa was Ames’ “girlfriend”, though in truth he was more besotted by her than the reverse.

The assault on Melissa brings Humphrey, a policeman into the mix. Humphrey and Doan have previous history together, when Carstairs inflicted a public humiliation on our detective. What follows is an investigation into the murder; with Humphrey trying to arrest the first person in sight at every opportunity. We have further deaths, the involvement of a Mexican investigator who is pursuing the recovery of some stolen historical artefacts, more involvement with Trent’s wife and a look at her history and first husband.

Oh Murderer Mine was an enjoyable read, more for its humour and the clashes between the incompetent Humphrey and the almost jaded manner in which Doan could predict his actions in advance. There was a mystery to be solved and it was, and in a fairly cohesive fashion, though it almost seemed secondary to the knockabout tone of the book. Davis also fashions an almost romance between Trent and Melissa. Almost - because for most of the book, Trent is married, albeit not happily. The author had some fun with the interaction between these two characters as well; with animosity used to conceal a spark of attraction.

I liked it, but I doubt I will be troubled enough to find more from this author in the future.

4 from 5

Acquired cheaply on Amazon kindle
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on June 20, 2013
Interesting cocept, a great Dane who has a mind of his own and expresses himself emphatically. The scene with Carstairs in the beauty salon is hilarious.This story has twists and turns and keeps one guessing to the end.
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on June 27, 2011
These books are fun I have had such a good time reading them, they would make a great mini series
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