Thursday, 15 November 2012

[Duel Review] Night Has a Thousand Eyes - Cornell Woolrich

The first thing I have to say about this book is that every time I think about it, I get this song stuck in my head. Which isn't a horrible thing because I like that song but I can't be grooving out to late fifties pop songs all my life, Woolrich.

Night is a classic 40s detective noir novel. Late one night while walking home, a young detective meets a girl about to jump off a bridge. When he gets her down, she's nearly catatonic and tells him that she's terrified of the stars. He takes her to an all night cafe and slowly the story pours out of her, a story about predictions and family histories and coming death. With that, a race against time begins as the young detective gets the rest of his team involved in the case.

The idea of this novel is great. I love detective novels, I love race against time novels, everything should have come together to meld into a really great, fast paced narrative. For me, though, it just never seemed to until the very end. I really enjoyed Jean telling her story in the beginning, as she went through the events that took her to the bridge. After that, though, there is a jarring transition to Detective Shawn's police department and characters the reader is never introduced to all of the sudden have the center floor. It was a bit hard to jump in feet first like that, even if I did want to know what was going on.

I did enjoy the way the characters were drawn, Tompkins in particular. The reluctant psychic has a really lovely apathetic and resigned air to him that I really enjoyed reading. I even warmed up to the other police detectives as time went on. I just wish we had gotten a bit more introduction before they were all of the sudden in the lead. Lt. Shawn and Jean were both interesting, perhaps only because they were in the center of the action but still. It did have the fast, out of nowhere romance of a noir piece but that's more stylistic than plot driven, I think.

Overall, I really enjoyed the plot. However, it seemed kind of like a very small story stretched out beyond its limits. I think it could have made an excellent short story just as well as it could have been a novel, if not better. Parts seemed written just to make a chapter longer rather than to add anything of significance. I would have even preferred if a few things that were explained in the last few pages were left to the imagination. This was definitely a story that could have left things hanging, although I suppose it did on some counts. 

Also, it has perhaps the most cringe inducing suicide reference I've read in a novel. I actually had to stop for a second and try and figure out how it even worked. Dear me.

I liked the book but I was never jumping up and down to read it. I wish it were a bit less dry and a bit more developed. The plot, however, was really interesting and if you like 40s detective fiction, then it's definitely up your alley.

This is my review of Woolrich's Night Has a Thousand Eyes. You can read Colin's review here.

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