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JAMES M FOX
Code Three


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Consul, London, 1965
(first published in Great Britain 1956 by Hammond, Hammond & Co)
price: 2/6; 160 pages


The blurb on the back:

Detective Sergeant Jerry Long is assigned to investigate the murder of a petty hoodlum, then suddenly he is called off. But dogged by a sense of justice Jerry continues to work - secretly and unofficially.
Code Three is not only a novel of suspense and detection; it is also a picture of the seamy side of a great city where crime and politics work hand in hand.


opening lines:
The man lay flat on his back in the parkway at the base of a small pepper tree, and his face was a swollen, bruised mess. Dark trails of dried blood zigzagged down from the misshapen nose and mouth.


I don't know anything about James M Fox. Well, to be more accurate, I know that it was a pseudonym for James M W Knipscheer, but that doesn't help because I don't know anything about Mr Knipscheer. The British Library catalogue lists books like Journey Into Danger (1943), Cheese From A Mousetrap (1944), The Lady Regrets (1947), Death Commits Bigamy (1950), The Inconvenient Bride (1951), The Gentle Hangman (1951), The Iron Virgin (1954), A Shroud For Mr Bundy (1955), Dead Pigeon (1967) - well, you get the picture.

And this book is exactly what you'd expect. A rapidly paced little crime thriller - the whole action takes place over forty-eight hours - it has all the standard ingredients of any noir novel: bent coppers and camp killers, trashy sluts and game dames, cover-ups, set-ups and the Mob. What it's missing is the spark that can illuminate this sort of material and bring it crackling into life. It'd be asking too much to expect Chandler's prose, but this is really too uninspired to bother with much. If I hadn't been on a 'bus with no other books on me, I probably wouldn't have finished it.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
2/5


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