Mark Kilby Takes a Risk by "Robert Caine Frazer" (John Creasey) (1962)
Creasey used the "Robert Caine Frazer" pseudonym for six books about investigator Mark Kilby that were first published as paperback originals for Pocket Books in the US from 1959 to 1962. At least the first five were republished by Collins in the UK several years later.
Who was Matk Kilby? "Urban...Witty...Dahing...Mark Kilby drives a blue Bntley, carries a stubby swordstick in place of a gun. To women he is fascinating; to men, epecially those who operate outside the law, he is pure poison. As chief invesstigator for the Regal Investment Security Corporation, a small group of wealthy financiers, the funds at his commnd are limitless, his authority whatever he chooses to make it. His employers ask only that he furnish the facts behind the facts (they close their eyes as to how he operates) and pay him fabulous commissions." An ex-British army officer, he lives in a posh penthouse apartment on the fifty-third floor of a Park Avenue skyscraper. His loyal valet is Hill, who was Kilby's batman in the former army days and a exemplar of discretion.
The company Mark works for is known by its initials, RISC. RISK, get it?
In other words, Mark Kilby is pretty much a typical Creasey hero, a man of both thought and action whose personal qualities place him far above his contemporaries.
Although set in the early Sixties with off-hand references to Sputnik, Jackie Kennedy, etc., because of the fast-paced action Mark Kilby Takes Risk hardly seems as dated as it is. As with many of Creasey's books, the plot particulars have to be taken with a grain of salt.
We open as Mark is staring out his penthouse window one evening and notices as reddish light in the distance. He quickly identifies the location as Gimmack's, a high-end department store. (Think Harrod's with a more extensive inventory.) The store is on fire. Mark reports the fire and immediately starts out for Gimmack's. The store has been rumored to be on a shaky financial footing recently. Depending on the damage, the fire may lower its value enough for RISC to consider investing in it at a lowered price. RISC would then pump money into the store, raising its value enough for both the store and RISC to make a tidy profit.
The 86-year-old head of Gimmack's, Cyrus Gimmack, has been injured in the fire and had been carried out the building by a young employee. The bodies of two watchmen were found in the building, one with his head bashed in and the other shot. Cyrus's estranged young niece, Joyce Renfrew, shows up with her "friend," a loud-mouthed and unlikable character named Ross Carter. Joyce had been getting threats to sign over her shares in the store to her uncle. Mark follows Joyce and Carter to her apartment, where a thug holds the couple at gunpoint, threatening to kill Joyce if she does not sign over her shares. Mark interrupts, disables the bad guy, and carries Joyce off to safety, leaving Carter to call the police on the thug. We later learn that the thugs escapes from Carter and is found with his throat cut and that Carter has implicated Mark in the man's death, the murders at the store, and Joyce's "kidnapping."
A tough homicide cop and his brutish assistant appear to be going along in framing Mark. Meanwhile Mark learns that Cyrus had secretly married his secretary in Reno a few days earlier. The new Mrs; Gimmack was the mistress of a dangerous mob boss before his death. Is there any wonder why she married a very rich man twice her age? Who is trying to gain control of Gimmack's, and why? Mark suspects there is a mastermind behind the entire affair. Is there anyone Mark can trust? Joyce? Cyrus? The former gang moll? Carter? Is the mob involved? And why are there attempts on Mark's life? Can Mark keep one step ahead of the police who have issued a city-wide alert on him?
It all comes to a head in a stunning and rather unbelievable conclusion. You can drive a truck through some of the plot holes, but that really does not matter. While you are in that truck, you are taken on a fast ride that keeps propelling you forward without giving you much time to notice some of the sticky little details. A willing suspension of disbelief is all that's needed to enjoy this thriller.