Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A secret agent takes the place of hoodlum Vic Lowney and hits Philadelphia with one goal: taking down a counterfeiting ring. It would be dangerous enough without the counterfeiter's mistress making him a proposition of her own...
I have a confession to make. While I am a sf/fantasy fan from way back, I have somehow managed to avoid reading Robert Silverberg until now. If his usual fare is as good as the detective stories he wrote to pay the bills when the sf market was tanking, I'll have to give him a shot.
On the surface, Blood on the Mink isn't anything out of the ordinary for the Hard Case line. In fact, at first glance, it was one of the books that made me question Hard Case's selection policies. "I've got this author I like that I just found out wrote some crappy pulp novels" or "I really like this author. What book can we get the rights for for cheap?" Fortunately, it quickly laid my fears to rest.
Blood on the Mink is an endless web of double-dealing and double-crosses. You've got the two counterfeit operations, Ricky Chavez, the engraver's daughter, and Klaus's mistress, all with their own agendas. Even though the main story is only 157 pages, Silverberg drags the reader through a miles long obstacle course of plot twists. By the end, I had no idea what was going to go down.
The characters are fairly standard archetypes. Greedy hoods, for the most part. The women in noir novels are either whores or virgins. Carol Champlain and Elena fill those roles to the letter. The only variable is Nick, aka Vic Lowney. He reminds me of Roger Zelazny's man with no name in My Name is Legion more than anything else.
The writing does its job. There were a few quotable lines but Silverberg's noir prose isn't going to make anyone forget about Raymond Chandler. Like I said, it got the job done.
While I wouldn't want this to be anyone's first Hard Case, it's a worthy addition to the line. It would probably also appeal to Silverberg's longtime readers. Whether or not that value would go beyond curiosity remains to be seen. I'll give it a 3.
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