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Mystery Monday – Plunder of the Sun

Plunder of the Sun by David Dodge



Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


In this 1949 crime adventure novel, PI Al Colby accepts a job from a mysterious, wheelchair-bound Chiliean. Colby has to smuggle a small package from Chile to Peru. As an American tourist with coveted Yankee dollars, his luggage won’t be tossed by customs officials like his employer’s would. But often assignments that easy on the face are not easy in the end. A dead body. Two beautiful women lead him down the garden path. Colby is lambasted and sees stars. Greedy gunmen menace him. A crafty villain steals the small package. The rousing climax has Colby and greedy guys on the hunt for a treasure of Incan gold in Peru.

Cripes, with the South American locale, noir atmosphere and non-stop action, it would be crass to ask for more. Dodge’s other job was travel writer so his descriptions feel accurate. Like this: “There was a tremendous snow-capped volcanic cone rearing up behind the town but looking so close in the thin mountain air that it practically kept me company while I ate.”

At times the travel writer and the noir writer get along real well: “The [train] car stank with the smell that exists only on the desert side of Peru, where the population is heavy and water is too valuable to waste on washing. It was a dead, rancid smell that even the breeze from the open windows wouldn’t blow away.”

At other times it’s pure noir: “She was done up like a Christmas tree – over-ripe mouth, beads of mascara thick on her eyelashes, green eye-shadow, a hat with a trailing drape that wound twice around her throat and hung down her back. The only thing missing was a man on a leash.”

David Dodge’s most famous book is To Catch a Thief because it was made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Plunder of the Sun was also made into a movie with Glenn Ford, but apparently Hollywood, in its typical ham-handed way, screwed it up so badly that nobody remembers it. The novel, though, is terrific reading courtesy of its crisp and vivid writing, wild pace, and unpredictable plot twists. The series character Al Colby is tough-minded but good-hearted in that he doesn’t exploit the vulnerable and takes the side of the underdog. Besides, my inner 12-year-old is partial to buried treasure stories.



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