SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT is the third instalment in the Maggie and Jack Starr mysteries in which the duo tackle the war on comics lodged by Dr. Werner Frederick who sees comics as a pathway to violence for the impressionable youth of America circa 1954. With the imminent publication of a book condemning the fictional medium, the Starr Syndicate, headed by Maggie Starr attempt to curb Frederick’s influence by hiring him to write a regular column for their newspaper. The terms of the agreement prohibit Frederick from trash talking comics, something he agrees to under surprisingly little sufferance. However, what looks to be a clever and cunning business move soon turns sour when Frederick is discovered by Jack, dead, in his apartment. The comic industry stands much to gain by ridding the world of Frederick; the question for Jack is who of the many suspects is the guilty party?
I really enjoyed this. The murder mystery takes a little while to get going while Max Allan Collins establishes the key players and builds a lengthy list of potential suspects yet it still comes across as entertaining and essential to the later stages of the book. While this is the third mystery to feature the widow Maggie Starr and Jack Starr (a private eye of sorts), SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT reads extremely well as a standalone. The graphics at the start of each chapter are a real bonus – not only do they look cool, but add an extra element to the story and really capture that golden age of comics feel.
Max Allan Collins pays homage to the classic pulp novels by virtue of the style in which SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT is written and the panning out of the plot which results in a coming together of all the suspects to unveil the killer. Fans of the genre will appreciate the attention to detail in recreating this feel.
STRIP FOR MUDER is a solid and entertaining whodunit with a nice sidebar of historical fiction. Now to hunt down the other books to feature Jack and Maggie Starr: A KILLING IN COMICS, and STRIP FOR MURDER.