Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book Review: Gil Brewer, The Vengeful Virgin (1958)

The Vengeful Virgin is a good example of a type of artistically flawed noir that exists somewhere between Everyman noir and psycho noir. At the outset, such novels seem to be about ordinary folks--in this case, Shirley Angela, an eighteen-year-old giving twenty-four-hour hospice care to her rich stepfather, and Jack Ruxton, a TV and intercom salesman and installation man. But Shirley and Jack seem like Everyman and Everywoman for only a few pages until amour fou erupts and a murder plot is born, by which time they have both lost their knack for sane behavior. This change happens so quickly--particularly in the case of Jack's readiness to join with a stranger in a murder plot--that it seems doubtful whether Shirley and Jack were sane to begin with. Put another way, The Vengeful Virgin is like Everyman noir on speed: The characters transgress from their straight-and-narrow lives, as readers know that they will, but they do it with more dispatch than Gil Brewer (or any other writer) can reasonably hope to get away with. Grade: B


  1. I agree with your review of this novel, David. For a better Gil Brewer, you might try 13 FRENCH STREET.

  2. Actually, I liked that one less! :-) Off and on, I'm working my way through Brewer in publication order. THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN was #17. If memory serves, WILD TO POSSESS is next up when I decide to read another Brewer. Among my favorites so far are A KILLER IS LOOSE and THE BRAT. Do you have any other favorites?