Book: Damned in Paradise

Cover image

Damned in Paradise: A Nathan Heller Novel

Author: Max Allan Collins
Publisher: E P Dutton

Nathan Heller has tackled the most notorious crimes of the century over the course of seven novels, and now he faces one of the greatest challenges of his career, the famous Massie case.

Clarence Darrow is past his prime but still a brilliant defense attorney when he asks Heller for a meeting at New York’s celebrity hangout, Sardi’s. Darrow wants Heller along when he takes on the tragic and twisted revenge murder of a “native” Islander who was one of five men accused of raping a beautiful socialite, Thalia Massie. The defendants are, surprisingly, the woman’s husband and mother, along with two Navy men. The case is sordid, tainted with bigotry and lies, and filled with contradictions. The job, then, is this: uncover what really happened.

As tensions mount and the case finds its way to the courtroom, the truth becomes disturbingly clear. Darrow’s performance is spellbinding, but will the final verdict spell justice?


Collins’ books about Nathan Heller are great fun, mixing history and mystery into a jaunty stew. The latest finds Heller on his way to Hawaii to help lawyer Clarence Darrow on his last case—defending a bizarre bunch of murderers in the notorious Massie affair. Using the actual facts of the case (a young Navy wife with social connections claimed she was kidnapped and raped by five young men in Honolulu in 1932; when the men were acquitted, her husband and her mother kidnapped one of the accused and killed him while trying to extract a confession), Collins recreates with considerable skill the natural beauty of the setting and the racial tensions of the time. Darrow comes to sad, vivid life as an aging lion at the end of his career, while other real characters like swimmer Buster Crabbe and the Chinese detective who was the model for Charlie Chan mix with Heller and other lively inventions.

Views: 389 • Modified: • Elapsed: 0.018 sec