174p 10/46 Death in Little Houses

Chuck Welch
October 17, 2006 - 1946 / Bantam 169-180 / bogart / degrouchy / larkin / novel / pulp / ravel

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A group of bearded mountain men steals pieces of a miniature model home and a lady trucker is marked for death — only Doc can put the pieces of this bizarre puzzle together before murder rules the road.

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  1. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    Death in Little Houses may not be the best Doc Savage adventure, but it does something exceptionally well which most Doc books do: It exemplifies Dent’s writing and abilities to set scenes, moods, and capture worlds of nuances.

    This tale opens in Chicago and the poetic beauty of the opening lulls the reader into a trance before the murders begin. He personifies things so well that from the Loop the great lake, “…accompanied you like a beautiful girl with a warm bright smile…” and “…she is there to greet one, curving and graceful, waiting quietly…” and “Again, she beckons you…” until finally, “The lake coyly slips behind a screen of trees, a forested estate, then makes a breathtaking, stately entrance in even greater majesty.” This is sublime and approaching great literature.

    Of course the killings do begin and we’re off into the dangerous world of adventure. And this one is very dangerous indeed. The author has never shied away from showing just how at risk Doc and his aids always are. They do not float along overcoming difficulties and solving crimes from their armchairs. They travel to the far corners of the earth, pushing the very edges of reality, and sweat, bleed, and scrape by in terrifying adventures by the skin of their teeth. Usually only Doc’s genius and phenomenal development save them and supersede the nefarious plots and villains that threaten the world. Make no mistake: These are deadly, high-stake adventures, not fun games they play.

    In this story, Doc Savage is tied and beaten by a gang of men. I mean beaten severely. It is made clear that only Doc’s phenomenal training and prowess allowed him to survive this horrific damage. Afterwards, Doc has trouble moving and even speaking. Ham and Monk are aghast at the terrible bruises all over Doc’s body, and in one scene even battle-scarred Monk shudders at Doc’s injuries. It is so bad that Doc has to fake his own death to survive and have some time to recover from this beating.

    I won’t overview the plot and cover any more details. I’ll just leave it at that. But it should be evident that even on the smallest of Doc’s adventures, these were well written, dynamic tales of extreme danger and powerful adversaries. Every time Doc ventures out, he was literally one breath away from death. These are not light escapades.

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