Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Review: Cornell Woolrich, Strangler's Serenade (1951)

Expanded from the novelette “Four Bars of Yankee Doodle” (1945), Strangler’s Serenade (1951) is Cornell Woolrich running out of gas. If you set out to read Woolrich’s suspense novels in chronological order, this is probably where you stop. The novel’s hero is Champ Prescott, a Big City Cop who is taking forced “rest” after getting shot in the line of duty, but, of course, there will be no rest for him. When he arrives at a boarding house in a small island community, he finds the first murder victim awaiting him. From here, Woolrich foregoes any damaged-cop psychodrama, opting instead for clichés of the Big City Cop showing the yokels how it’s done. Season with a love interest and standard-issue Absurd Woolrich Plotting, and the result is closer to terrible than it is to Woolrich’s Black Period. Grade: C-

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