Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain

Another Cain! I really like this guy’s work.

This book is more like The Postman Always Rings Twice than Mildred Pierce, because there’s more murder plotting, but it of course still has that don’t-trust-charismatic-people aspect to it. So good.

And the murder plotting here is EXCELLENT, because the murderer fellow, who is again offing a lust-object’s husband, is an insurance agent and he knows what has to be done to make a murder play out like an accident. So there is lots of planning and trickery and secrets.

But of course there are more secrets than just this planned murder, as our murderer discovers AFTER he’s done all this work, and those combined with the fact that he works with at least one good insurance agent who has totally figured out that there was a murder but can’t quite prove it make this novel wonderfully suspenseful.

The ending is great as well; it combines a few excellent surprising endings that I’ve read before and makes them more interesting. It’s just a good time all around!

Also, just a few pages into this book I realized that I had watched the movie version in my freshman English class, though I didn’t remember it terribly well because I’m pretty sure the noir voice-over aspect put me to sleep. Definitely a more gripping book.

Recommendation: Good for those who like suspense and slowly unveiled evil characters, and also those who would like tips on planning a perfect murder.

Rating: 9/10
(RIP Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain

I read Mildred Pierce for my book club a little while ago and loved it, so the fact that I had a couple other Cain works sitting in anthology form turned out to be an excellent thing.

Of course, The Postman Always Rings Twice isn’t really anything like Mildred Pierce. In Mildred, Cain writes a moderately creepy story about the power of especially charismatic people, while in Postman… no, wait, it’s still about the power of especially charismatic people. But here there be MURDERERS. That’s the difference. Not such a big one, really.

Postman is about a drifter fellow who very quickly falls in love (well, lust) with a married woman and just as quickly they are planning her husband’s death. They try once and fail, then try again and succeed, but of course murdering someone isn’t really something you can get away with so easily, especially when an insurance company is involved.

The trial bit is what I think I liked the best… my husband’s in law school so he’s always coming home with very strange hypothetical and real cases, but this one takes the cake, especially in the way the lawyer uses all sorts of lawyer-y tricks that baffle and confuse and amaze me in the end.

I also liked that the narrator turns out to be possibly unreliable (not even definitely unreliable, how cool is that), and also the way the whole ending plays out, from the betrayals to the justice.

But it is a short book (~100 pages), so really you should just go read it.

Recommendation: Not for people who love their characters, but definitely for people who love their plots. Also for budding lawyers who want some true genius to aspire to, but not for those who want to have, like, integrity.

Rating: 8/10
(RIP Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain

I am pretty sure that the moral of this story is that I should never ever ever have children. Because clearly they will either be delightful children, in which case they will die awful and expensive deaths, or they will be evil incarnate and ruin my life all while making me think that I’m ruining theirs. I can’t have either of these. I renew my No Babies pledge!

Really, though, that’s pretty much how this book goes. Mildred has a deadbeat, cheating husband, who once had money but then the Great Depression happened and he’s too proud to go out and find some more, and she (fairly rightfully) kicks him out to go live with his sugar momma, only to realize that now she’s going to have to go get a job, which she does as secretly as possible because she is just as proud as that husband of hers. But she does find a job, and things start going pretty well for her, until they start going badly. And then Mildred fixes that, and things go well again. Until they go badly. And then things get fixed again. Then broken again. It is a terrible cycle, one that I am not unfamiliar with in my own life (can I have a job yet, economy?).

Mildred’s problem, really, is that she puts too much faith in people who are out to screw her (figuratively and other figuratively), and takes for granted the people who are wonderful to her. And what’s worse is that she mostly knows it, but lets herself get dragged into it anyway. But she is amazingly resilient, and while I would not like to have her odd thoughts running around in my head, I would be delighted to have her ability to overcome adversity.

And the last few sentences of this novel just sum up all of my feelings about it, so perfectly.

I may have wanted to punch every character (except maybe two or three) in this book right in the face at some point in time, but isn’t that how life is? I think that Cain has really hit on a perfect description of a person with a pretty good life in a pretty terrible time, and all of the characters ring true, whether we’d like to know them or not. I have nothing but praise for Cain’s writing, and I’m really glad that I got this novel as part of an anthology of his work so I can delve into some more of it soon.

Blast, this means that the rest of my book club is going to hate this book. I’d better start preparing a defense now!

Recommendation: Read this if you can deal with some incredibly frustrating characters and don’t mind a story that doesn’t really have a plot.

Rating: 9/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.