Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Book Review: Bill S. Ballinger, The Wife of the Red-Haired Man (1957)

The Bill S. Ballinger narrative gimmick: first-person chapters alternate with and play off against third-person chapters. This iteration of the gimmick, however, is less than inspired. The third-person chapters tell of the red-haired man and his wife on the run from the police. The first-person chapters are narrated by their police pursuer. Unfortunately (and unlike superior Ballinger novels), these chapters run in near chronological lockstep such that if they had been written as a single third-person narrative, the reader's experience would not be much different. But what really drags down the novel is its clichéd plotting: The police investigation is driven by the cop's unerring hunches, and the red-headed man has a sixth sense that unfailingly alerts him when he is in danger. If you've never read Ballinger before, start with Portrait in Smoke or The Tooth and the Nail instead. Grade: C

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