Friday, February 13, 2009

Book Review: Cornell Woolrich, Six Times Death [a.k.a. After-Dinner Story] (1944)

Collects six stories: "After-Dinner Story" (1938); "The Night Reveals" (1936); "An Apple a Day" (1944); "Marihuana" (1941); "Rear Window" [original title: "It Had to Be Murder"] (1942); and "Murder-Story" (1937).

This collection ultimately becomes a kind of noir comique. The stories are dark enough, but their premises are so silly that the narratives become as amusing as they are bleak: an eleavator crashes to the basement of an office building, and while its occupants await rescue from the dark, one of them commits murder; an arson investigator for an insurance company discovers that his wife is a pyromaniac; a diamond, stolen and hidden in an apple, is accidentally dropped into a baby carriage that contains four more apples; smoking pot triggers a murder spree; an insomniac, invalid Peeping Tom convinces himself that one of his neighbors is a murderer; a pulp writer somehow manages to describe an actual murder, down to the smallest detail. All of this is fun to read, but it lacks the emotional charge that Woolrich achieves in his better novels. Grade: B-

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