Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Nick Quarry's No Chance in Hell

Marvin H. Albert (1924-1996) was an American who wrote in a number of different genres using quite a few different pseudonyms. He wrote westerns. He wrote adventure thrillers under the name Ian McAlister (including the excellent Driscoll’s Diamonds) and he wrote lots of crime thrillers. Under the name Nick Quarry he wrote the half-dozen Jake Barrow private eye thrillers. No Chance in Hell, published in 1960, was the fifth book in this series.

Jake Barrow wants to show off his luxurious new apartment to his girlfriend Sandy (a lady cop), but when they get to the apartment there’s a girl there. Her name is Nina Cloud, she’s a sixteen-year-old Navajo girl and she’s the daughter of Johnny Cloud, an old army buddy of Jake’s. Johnny has told Nina that she’s in danger and that she’s to trust Jake.

Johnny Cloud seems to have landed himself in trouble of some sort. Whatever that trouble is it’s led to the murder of Johnny Cloud’s girlfriend Margo, an attempt to kidnap Nina and the shooting of Sandy. It’s the shooting of Sandy that has Jake really riled up. She’s in hospital and the surgeons don’t know if she will live.

All Jake knows about the man who shot Sandy is that he’s tall and redheaded, but Jake intends to find him and kill him.

Revenge for the shooting of Sandy is Jake’s main motivation but in order to find the man who shot her he’s going to have to unravel the mysteries surrounding Johnny Cloud and his daughter. Jake is going to have to figure out just exactly what kind of a jam Johnny is in, and he’s going to try to get Johnny out of that jam. They’re buddies. And since Johnny is a buddy Jake is obviously also determined to keep Nina Cloud safe.

The first step is to find the red-headed man. Jake thinks the red-headed man was working for Harvey Kew. Kew has a lot of business interests, some of them legal, and he’s a powerful influential man. Getting to see Harvey Kew isn’t easy but Jake does get to see Harvey’s wife. That makes a few things clearer.

There are quite a few women mixed up in this case. I wouldn’t describe any of them as classic femmes fatales although some of them could certainly be dangerous. If Jake can find out exactly where each of the women fits in the puzzle he should be able to solve the case.

If he lives long enough. Jake has picked some powerful people to upset. And some very nasty people. Jake gets beaten up so many times that you wonder what keeps him going. In fact it’s the power of hate that drives him.

There’s a rather epic chase sequence through the storm sewers after Jake is framed for a murder.

This is a fine hardboiled mystery thriller with a nice little final twist. There’s a great deal of violence and it’s moderately graphic. There’s no sex at all. I’m not sure I’d describe this novel as noir. It’s more an action-packed roller coaster ride of a crime suspense thriller.

While noir protagonists tend to be swept along by events Jake Barron is a guy who makes things happen. They don’t always turn out as well as he’d hoped but at least he keeps things moving. He’s not a guy who waits passively for trouble to come to him - he’ll go looking for it and he usually finds it.

He’s pretty much your basic tough guy private eye hero.

There’s nothing really dazzlingly original here. This is just a very well-told very satisfying tough private eye yarn. That’s good enough for me. Highly recommended.

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