A Killing in Comics

A Killing in Comics
by Max Allan Collins;
Illustrated by Terry Beatty
Published by Berkeley Prime Crime

A Killing in Comics is an eminently readable mystery novel by Max Allan Collins. The action takes place in the world of comics circa 1948. The book is written in the style of the hard-boiled detective story. The protagonist is Jack Starr, who is a vice-president of Starr Syndication, and as a licensed private investigator, he is responsible for looking after the interests of Starr Syndication and its writers. When Donny Harrison, the publisher behind the “Wonder Guy” comic, dies at his own birthday party, Jack is asked by his boss and stepmother to investigate. Wonder Guy is one of their best comics, and the creators were at the party, and thus suspects. As Jack investigates, he finds that not everything about the comic industry is fun and games. There is no shortage of suspects, ranging from Donny’s mistress to a crime boss to the creators of the comic strips, all with plenty of motive to murder Donny Harrison. The panels at the beginning of each chapter drawn by Terry Beatty are in a 1948 style, adding another element of style to the book Max Collins writes the mystery in the classic Ellery Queen style. He even has a summary in comic strip form, thanks to Terry Beatty. All the information to solve the case is available to the reader. The question is whether the reader has picked up on all the important clues. A Killing in Comics was an enjoyable read, without unnecessary gore or violence, and it has a terrific cast of characters. I had fun comparing his fictional comic book characters to the real-life characters that were the staple of the day. The author’s treatment of the comics and his characters rings true to life, he plays by the rules of the classic mystery, and has a lot of fun while he does so.

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