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No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939)

by James Hadley Chase

Series: Blandish's Orchids (book 1), Dave Fenner Series (book 1)

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3901449,038 (3.63)30
This no-punches-pulled story of an attractive, wealthy girl, kidnapped, held to ransom and raped by a viciously sadistic criminal captures the authentic ruthlessness of gangsterism in all its searing brutality. It is definitely not a story for the squeamish.

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No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase was originally published in 1939. This is a very dark crime story with some of the most vicious, depraved criminals I have ever read about. This is a very American book with it’s mid-west setting but surprisingly the author was British. Apparently he particularly admire the work of James M. Cain and tried to duplicate his noir stories, although I found the brutality and earthiness more like the hard-boiled crime novels of the 1950s. No Orchids for Miss Blandish was quite controversial at the time due to its explicit descriptions of violence and sex and it has been adapted into a couple of films as well as a play.

When a newspaper announces that a millionaire’s beautiful daughter will be wearing her famous pearls to an event, a small gang of criminals decides they will get their hands on these pearls. The robbery goes awry and they end up with both the pearls and the girl. Another larger, more organized and certainly more violent gang called the Grissoms move in and take both the girl and the pearls. They secure a large ransom from her father, but since the girl has caught the eye of the psychopath son of the gang's leader, they keep the girl for him to use and abuse. The millionaire hires a private detective to track his daughter and this leads to a blood-bath of a conclusion.

No Orchids for Miss Blandish is a lurid, gritty, dark story. The writing is on-point considering the author used an American slang dictionary and articles about the criminal underworld to help give the story an authentic feel. While I wouldn’t recommend this book to many, I do admit that it both surprised and shocked me, and totally held my attention during the reading. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | May 2, 2020 |
I'm not sure why I picked this one up. I'd read another book my Chase a while back, and thought it was pretty awful. Not so this one. It was actually fairly good, given the genre. It's not Raymond Chandler, or even Dashiell Hammett, but still decent hard-boiled, noir detective fiction. I had no problems staying engaged. I'd give it 3*s +, were that allowed.

So, we have a gang of second-rate punks who decide to lift the diamond necklace of one Miss Blandish. Somehow they get stuck with Miss Blandish as well. But not for long. A higher-class gang of thugs disposes of the second-raters and snag Miss Blandish for themselves. After all, the diamond necklace is small potatoes, Miss Blandish should be worth a cool million in ransom.

The cops are all befuddled. They think Miss Blandish has been kidnapped by the second-rate punks, Riley and his gang, so go looking in all the wrong places. Riley and cohorts are actually well hidden in shallow graves.

But a former crime reporter, turned private eye, Dave Fenner, starts looking into things and begins to piece the strings together. Of course, there is lots of shooting and bodies pile up and so forth. It's also extraordinarily dark in that the not-quite-all-there Slim Grisson, son of Ma Grisson, the head of the higher-class gang, takes a fancy to Miss Blandish. They keep her drugged so he can spend time with her...or something.

One weird thing is that Slim Grisson liked watching TV. He had a 21-inch TV. Well, this book was written in 1939. There was barely any commercial TV until after World War II, i.e. a decade later. I don't believe that 21-inch TVs became common until the 1960s. I certainly don't remember such huge TVs in the early-to-mid 1950s, and I don't believe I got a TV that large until the mid 80s (also my first color TV). So, I have no idea how this makes sense. It's like the story was a 1930s period piece written in the 1980s by someone who had a lapse in his background research. It didn't spoil the story in any way, but it did seem rather weird to me.
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
James Hadley Chase was an English writer born René Lodge Brabazon Raymond and well known by various pseudonyms, including James Hadley Chase, James L. Docherty, Raymond Marshall, R. Raymond, and Ambrose Grant. See Wikipedia for more details.

NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH (publ. 1939) is set in the gangster era of the mid 1930s in Kansas, although Chase had never been there. It was his debut novel, and the beginning of a long and immensely successful career as a novelist. Dave Fenner appeared in a second novel in 1941. He is an ex-journalist turned private eye, and works with the "bulls" (police) to find Miss Blandish.

I thought it had a surprisingly modern feel about it although it is exceptionally noir, with an incredible amount of violence, which apparently drew considerable criticism at publication. It was indeed based on events and people who had gained notoriety in the early 1930s in America. I didn't expect the ending to have the twist that it had, and I thought that was a redeeming feature. A fast paced thriller. ( )
  smik | Dec 12, 2014 |
Three small-time crooks decide to steal a valuable diamond necklace from an heiress but when things get out of hand they end up taking the millionaire's daughter with them. Not 'big-time' enough to handle a kidnapping, the mighty Grisson gang storm in and take the girl and the necklace away with them.

The novel is fast paced, featuring lots of snappy dialogue, with no pointless digressions. The author does a good job in bringing his characters to life, though his characterisation of Miss Blandish could've been better explored. Had he shown the reader more insight into Miss Blandish's mindset I feel the story woould've been better.

To have portrayed Miss Blandish's point of view in greater depth would've made the reader sympathise with her more. Granted, she doesn't feature in too many scenes, but she is still the central character, who I didn't really get to know as well as I would've liked. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Dec 15, 2013 |
I heard everyone was reading bootleg copies of this in air raid shelters during the Blitz, so I sought it out. But when I finally read it, I was a bit disappointed; and not just because it's rather tame, more so because I don't think it compares with the American books it was supposed to imitate. I think I'd have needed something a little stronger and better written to have kept my mind off the sound of bombs coming over. Of cultural rather than literary interest. ( )
  Philip_Lee | Apr 1, 2013 |
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L'affaire débuta un après-midi du mois de juillet, par une chaleur torride, sous un ciel implacablement bleu et de brûlantes rafales de vent et de poussière.
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Reference to the author's work being published by Harlequin can be seen at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlequi...
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This no-punches-pulled story of an attractive, wealthy girl, kidnapped, held to ransom and raped by a viciously sadistic criminal captures the authentic ruthlessness of gangsterism in all its searing brutality. It is definitely not a story for the squeamish.

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Miss Blandish - innocent, exquisite, vulnerable heiress - is kidnapped by a gang of ruthless hoods who've never tried big-time crime. Foiled by their own vicious ineptitude and the greed of a superior mob, the kidnappers lose their million dollar prize. Blandish, terrified and broken, is now the captive of Ma' Grisson and her sadistic, sexually deviant son Slim.

When Dave Fenner was hired to solve the Blandish kidnapping, he knew the on finding the girl were against him - the cops were still looking for her three months after the ransom had been paid. And the kidnappers, Riley and his gang, had disappeared in to thin air. But what none of them knew was that Riley himself had been wiped out by a rival gang - and the heiress was now in the hands of Ma Grisson and her son Slim, a vicious killer who couldn't stay away from women...especially his beautiful new captive. By the time Fenner began to close in on them, some terrible things had happened to Miss Blandish...
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