Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: Martin M. Goldsmith, Double Jeopardy (1938)

You can hear the gears grinding in Double Jeopardy’s breathtakingly awkward opening sentence:

I suppose it was that five-point-nine that was to blame—or the gunner who fired it; or maybe it was my own fault for lagging behind the rest of my battalion as we advanced deployed through that ploughed-up cemetery; but, somehow, I find myself laying it all before Anita’s door.
Martin M. Goldsmith’s second novel is unapologetically plot-driven, but Double Jeopardy offers surprisingly little drama. As narrator Peter Thatcher describes how Anita, his femme fatale, played him for a fool and framed him into prison, readers will never have a doubt what is going on, even while Peter is too thick to see it.

Sometimes when noir fiction is dramatically weak, our empathy for the protagonist compensates with cathartic pleasure as we bear witness to inevitable doom. Not so here, as Peter Thatcher’s narrative becomes increasingly overwrought:

Unfortunately, there is no way I can find to adequately describe my suffering. But then I am reasonably certain that even the great Russian masters of tragedy—Tolstoi, Maxim Gorki, Dostoievski—would be quick to perceive the emptiness of their words in the telling of my story and would probably throw down their pens in despair.
Nobody knows the trouble Peter has seen, which he keeps reminding us in his ongoing attempt to wear out our goodwill. Grade: D+

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