Cain’s Girl Friend by William Grote. Ace Books, 1957.
Steve Lindstrom, the muscular former head of a national chain of gymnasiums, returns to LA to investigate the supposedly accidental death of his younger brother, Dan. Steve’s feeling guilty because he went east six years before, leaving Dan to his own devices. He dumped fiancée Joan, now married to attorney Larry Payne, at the same time. Steve contacts them and others who might aid in the investigation: aging wrestling manager Herman Weber, Dan’s best friend; top mobster Fritz Heiner, one of Dan’s former employers; and wealthy judge Wilbert Davidson, another employer, who lives with a demented, bed-ridden wife. They are helpful in different ways, but Steve will need to search further if he’s to discover what actually happened to his brother.
The novel is set up as a hard-boiled detective story in which the protagonist is his own client. So the plot unfolds in a familiar way, most of the characters are devious and selfish, and the episodes are often violent. The writing is brisk. The author makes some miscalculations, however. The woman mentioned in the title, Helene Antrim, doesn’t show up until the first quarter of the novel has been completed. Another late-appearing character, contract killer Marty Straanker, receives an unwarranted amount of attention. The narrative uses his viewpoint on several occasions but never quite establishes him as Steve’s chief antagonist. In addition, the ending seems to lack sufficient foreshadowing. (The author’s attempt to say something about corruption in Los Angeles is too feeble to be considered part of the story.) Even so, fans of the genre will probably find the book entertaining.