What Happens in Vegas? The Tiki Joe Mysteries

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It’s 1959 Las Vegas and WW II veteran Joe Halliday runs a nice Tiki Bar. Joe is a peaceful guy but when trouble comes calling he’ll answer.

SLG publishing has a nice history of putting out an eclectic mixture of material that runs from philosophical to odd to entertaining and all points in between. Mark Murphy’s Tiki Joe Mysteries: The High Stakes Patsy falls into the "entertaining" category.

This volume actually contains two stories: "The Pay Off!" and "The High Stakes Patsy". The first story introduces Joe, his bar (Tiki Joe’s) his girlfriend Samantha North, and a handful of Joe’s old war buddies – all of whom comprise the band at the bar. When a couple of low-rent mob boys show up to demand protection money Joe sets out to do what the police won’t – find out who is behind all this and get the evidence to put them away.

In "The High Stakes Patsy", Samantha and Joe have been apart lately as Sam focuses on the anniversary of her father’s casino. The jewel of the celebration is literally a jewel – a famous diamond. Meanwhile, an all-girl motorcycle stunt team roars into town for a gig and they take to hanging out at Tiki Joe’s… and Joe takes to hanging out with the leader of the team. These girls are more than what they seem and Joe soon finds himself in a three way squeeze between two beautiful women and the heist of the century!

With a Rat Pack influenced double feature, this pocket-sized digest is strictly for the entertainment value. There is just the tiniest hint of superherodom here as Joe and his war buddies don tiki masks to save the day but there is even more of a noir feel.

In some ways, though, the story is misnamed since there really isn’t much mystery in either of the two tales. They are more fairly light examples of vigilante justice with an upstanding, moral, square-jawed hero and his crew of specialist side-kicks. Come to think of it, there is probably just a touch of the old Doc Savage pulps here with Joe’s team – where each person has a specialty from the trained sniper to the "gadget guy" who can make anything out of old junk.

Murphy wears two hats here – writer and artist. With the lack of color and even grayscale the art depends entirely on Murphy’s line work to define it and set the scene. His work is simple and graceful with a slightly cartoony style but he still manages to capture the complexities of the architecture and interior design of that time period. It must be said, though, that occasionally, some of the masks the characters wear end up losing some of their differentiation and then it becomes impossible to know which characters are speaking which lines.

In the end, the Tiki Joe Mysteries are about the era and writer-artist Murphy perfectly captures this time of jazz and lounge music in a place known for anything goes action. One can practically taste the drinks and hear the music with a soundtrack of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Tiki-influenced jazz, a hint of the Blues and maybe some Peggy lee thrown in for good measure.

The Tiki Joe Mysteries: The High Stakes Patsy is published by SLG Publishing at $9.95.

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