I, the Jury

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I, The Jury (1947) is Mickey Spillane's first novel featuring private investigator Mike Hammer.


Plot summary

The novel is set in and around New York City in the summer of 1944. Although she runs a successful private psychiatric clinic on New York's Park Avenue, Dr. Charlotte Manning — young, beautiful, blonde, well-to-do, and sexually starved (maybe) — cannot get enough. In order to increase her profit, she gets involved with a group of criminals — a "syndicate" — specialising in both prostitution and drug-trafficking. The brains of the "outfit" is Hal Kines, who has had plastic surgery so that he looks much younger than he really is, this being how he gets hold of the young women whom he then turns into prostitutes. Manning herself has a rich and "ritzy" clientele — people who would not want their addiction to become public knowledge. But instead of weaning them off drugs in her private and exclusive clinic, Manning makes them even more dependent on both the drug — heroin in most cases — and on herself by procuring the stuff herself. On the surface, Charlotte Manning keeps up appearances and leads a respectable life as a renowned psychiatrist.

When Jack Williams, a former New York cop who has lost an arm in World War II saving his friend Mike Hammer's life, falls in love with Myrna Devlin, a young heroin addict whom he stops from jumping off a bridge to commit suicide, he asks Manning to admit her to her clinic for psychotherapy. After Myrna has become clean, she and Williams become engaged, and the couple keep up a casual friendship with Charlotte Manning. This is how Williams's growing suspicions about Manning's business lead him to privately and secretly investigate even further into the matter. When he realizes that Hal Kines, one of Manning's college students who has spent some time at her clinic and who has become one of her casual acquaintances, is in fact a criminal, he wants to talk to her about it and tells her so. When, at a party given by Williams in his apartment, Charlotte Manning sees some old college yearbooks whose contents (and photos), if made public, would expose Kines's double life, she has to act fast. After the party, she goes home but on the same night, undetected by Kathy, her black maid, goes back to Williams's apartment (Myrna, his fiancée, does not live there) and shoots him in the stomach using a silencer. She does so in a particularly sadistic way, watching him die slowly. Then she takes the college yearbooks and leaves.

None of the guests at Williams's party has a watertight alibi, but to both Pat Chambers, the cop investigating the murder, and Mike Hammer, a friend of his and private investigator, none of them has a motive either. Throughout the book, as more and more immediate suspects are eliminated (shot) ("If this kept up there wouldn't be anyone left at all."), Hammer briefly ponders the question if the killer could be an "outsider" — someone wholly unrelated to the group of people who have been at Williams's party, for example someone Williams was after in his capacity as investigator for an insurance company. Chambers also thinks along similar lines: Williams's (secret) connection with Myrna's former drug dealers might have cost him his life. But they soon abandon that theory.

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