Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: Jim Thompson, The Criminal (1953)

The title of this low-key masterpiece (low key for Jim Thompson, anyway) is either highly ironic or an oblique reference to almost every character in the book (or, of course, maybe both). In the main, its title refers to Bob Talbert, a teenager accused of killing a girl after she seduces him. As the narrative progresses, however, the fate of our criminal (if criminal he be) becomes increasingly beside the point. The story is told by a series of first-person narrators, each representing less a perspective than an agenda. Thus, the narrators emerge as criminals of a different sort, self-interested and mostly unconcerned with the truth of the affair. Herein lies the title's irony, as The Criminal frustrates the focus that its title promises. Some of Thompson's most famous novels feature the psychological disintegration of their protagonists. In The Criminal, it is the plot itself that disintegrates. Grade: A

1 comment:

  1. I've read quite a lot of Thomson over the years but this is one I have never picked up - thanks for the very concise review, sounds really interesting.