*** out of 5
This story is more CSI than noir, but again, this 1942 entry by Fred Zinneman is fairly early in the noir cycle. It's also a fairly early roll in the career of Van Heflin, who is still fresh-faces and sunny-dispositioned (at least for most of the film). He is the head of the crime lab, who, with his sharp and lovely assistant, Marsha Hunt, is key to uncovering the murderer of the mayor, as played by Samuel S Hinds, who was a Lewis Stone clone, I think.
The noir elements of the film are essentially relegated to the secondary characters, such as Eddie Quinlan's small business owner who is wrongly implicated of the mayor's death. And while Marsha Hunt is being seduced by a sort-of homme fatale, it's not given the fully dark aspect a later noir might have played it up for.
Still, the plot has some effective moments of suspense, thanks largely to the fact that the audience is tipped off early as to the real killer, played by Lee Bowman, who strives for much of the picture to convince Marsha Hunt that she loves him, despite her efforts to spark the interest of her boss.
Outside of the story, which is quick-moving and entertaining, this film also as a notable scene in which Van Heflin has a moment to show some comedy chops by demonstrating in pantomime to his tablemates at a restaurant how he, the merry bachelor prepares his own fish to eat.
Notable future stars making blink-and-you-miss-em uncredited appearances: Ava Gardner, Paul Fix, and Robert Blake.