Though we start in Bermuda with the expository set up about the murdered lawyer, the missing artist, and the mystery of why Elsa's painting is a the scene of the crime we (along with Jack, Dave and the rest of the cast of characters ) are soon headed on a boat headed for Tony Yates' private island in the Bahamas where he is funding Dr. Ulrich's research with a series of high-tech aquariums all set up for the study of rare fish species and life among the coral reefs. No sooner have they landed but a second body turns up, this time an apparent suicide. It's "Zoobug" (Alfred to his parents) Strong, one of Dr. Ulrich's research assistants and coincidentally an old college pal of Jordan's. Through some keen detective work Jordan learns that Zoobug is the missing artist who was renting the studio apartment where the lawyer was killed. Now he needs to find the link between the two deaths. Did Zoobug really commit suicide by drowning himself? Or was he too murdered? And why was a marine biologist masquerading as an artist in Greenwich Village?
When another body turns up at the bottom of a tank filled with ravenous barracudas Jordan and Dave are convinced that someone is trying to sabotage the work at the research center. But why? Someone suggests that visiting rival scientist Dr. Karl von Merz, an Austrian, is actually a Nazi spy and wants the island for a submarine station. He'd have easy access to Miami's shoreline -- only a day's travel underwater -- thereby also gaining access to a key US port and naval air station. Nazis and barracudas! How can you pass this one up?
|UK 1st edition (Gerald Swan, 1947)|
If I have to find anything to criticize it's DuBois' embarrassing depiction of London, a black handyman and dock worker, described in animal terms best left unquoted. Although London has the ability to speak, he is not given one line of dialogue. Anytime he does speak it is rendered third hand or quoted by Jordan. I found that really odd, but not as odd as the writer's 18th century love of the "noble savage" idea. It's a minor fault, really, but still rather jarring in book that otherwise appears to be have been created by a sophisticated and smart writer. DuBois does redeem himself when he allows London to act selflessly and heroically in saving the life of two people in one action sequence and in recovering a piece of crucial evidence that had been submerged by the dock when everyone else failed.
Jack Jordan appears in a third mystery The Case of the Haunted Brides (1941) then disappears, along with William DuBois, from the mystery world. I suspect poor sales forced Little Brown to drop him from their list. After having had success in the 1930s as a playwright (four plays made it to Broadway though all had short runs), DuBois returned to writing primarily for newspapers with occasional stints as a scriptwriter for radio and the movie screen. Though he gave up as a mystery novelist he did pen at least one other novel, The Island in the Square (1947) about the world of newspapers and theaters in the Times Square district of Manhattan.