Malcolm Lowry is the narrator of this story. It is a revenge story. Lawry was a successful lawyer with a beautiful, loving wife in an upscale California community, the fictional town of Puerto Bello, but, when the Syndicate came to town and ordered him to defend a man who was clearly guilty, he did not comply. The price was that his best friend, Nikke, and his investment advisor, Colonel Hoop, turned on him and swindled him out of his life savings. His wife’s car was set up for a staged accident that would leave Lowry open to blackmail, but the accident was set up too good and the wife died. “It was hard to prove anything by what was left of the car. Jen was accused of being drunk and of manslaughter, because the driver of the old, rickety car she had hit died. The charge didn’t matter; Jen was near death herself.”
Lowry was set up for a prison term, but he managed to simply lose his career and was forced to leave the country. After five long years in Mexico, nursing his hurts and plotting his revenge, Lowry is coming back and is “ready to strike back at the men who’d slain his wife and stolen his money. It had taken that five years to get the goods on those two men and to lay his plans for their ruin.”
It is not entirely clear how Lowry is going to exact his revenge on Nikke and the Colonel, but he is on his way. And, he has dossiers on his two enemies that he has had detectives compile for him.
One of the odd ideas in this book is that Lowry thinks he has changed so much in five years that his former friends and acquaintances won’t recognize him even if he is not wearing a disguise. “They would recognize me in time but I didn’t think it would be too soon. Five years had made a lot of difference. I had left plump and pink and thirty. I had returned lean-faced, heavily tanned by the Mexican sun, dark hair shot with gray at the temples, mouth line reshaped by a medium heavy black mustache.”
There were five people gathered at a table when Lowry returns and he assumes no one will know who he is. In addition to Nikke and the Colonel, there is Enid Proctor, the younger sister of one of the richest families on the Hill. She drank and acted as a shill at Nikke’s gambling establishments. “Enid, at twenty-six, looked as if the world had given her everything it could muster and she had taken it all. She was not beautiful; her features were too irregular. But she had life and spirit in her face despite a drawn, nervous look.” Sofia Proctor had also been at the table. She had been Jen’s maid of honor. She was correct in everything, her dress, her hair, her way of eating and drinking. Then, there was Tanya Mace, engaged to the sixty-year-old Colonel and giving him the full sucker treatment. And, the picture of her in Lowry’s dossier failed to do her justice. “She was almost beautiful. She was tall, a big woman, with a fine bosom and hips, and with a head of pale blond hair that looked like spun platinum.”
Lowry sets out to exact his revenge and the question is who of these people can he trust, the two men who betrayed him, the rich queen who turned her back on his wife, the nutty shill who had a teenage crush on him that had never abated, or the blonde temptress that was engaged to the fat sloppy aged colonel. Lowry’s story takes him into the Syndicate-controlled gambling halls and has him fighting with the Syndicate boys who are not too happy to have him back in town. He gets back involved with these people and ends up fighting for his life with bodies falling everywhere around him and gunslingers chasing him down cliffs and bodies showing up where they were not supposed to.
I found that overall the story moved quite swiftly, especially once it got underway. There were a few places where the story seemed to wander, but Trimble eventually tied it all together quite neatly. It is a good, solid pulp-era story and well worth reading.