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Double Indemnity Paperback – May 14, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0679723226 ISBN-10: 0679723226 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 115 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 14, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723226
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When smalltime insurance salesman Walter Huff meets seductive Phyllis Nirdlinger, the wife of one of his wealthy clients, it takes him only minutes to determine that she wants to get rid of her husband--and not much longer to decide to help her do it. Walter knows that accident insurance pays double indemnity on railroad mishaps, so he and Phyllis plot frantically to get Nirdlinger on--and off--a train without arousing the suspicions of the police, the insurance company, Nirdlinger's dishy daughter, her mysterious boyfriend, or Nirdlinger himself. This brief but complex novel is a perfect example of the ordinary-guy-gone-disastrously-wrong story that Cain always pulls off brilliantly.

Review

'[A] fine idea for a series... They already have a superb noir backlist. but adding Philip K Dick's Minority Report and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? improves the mix.' SCOTSMAN --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Westley VINE VOICE on July 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
Walter Huff is a pretty decent and basically honest insurance salesman, until he meets Phyllis Nirdlinger, the wife of a successful California businessman. Phyllis isn't the most attractive woman, but she's a true seductress. Huff immediately knows that Phyllis will be trouble, but he can't resist her, and she quickly involves him in a plot to kill her husband. Things become even more complicated when Phyllis' step-daughter, Lola, enters the scene and bonds with Huff.
James M. Cain is one of the indisputable greats of crime noir novels, and he also wrote the terrific "The Postman Always Rings Twice." The plot is fast-moving, and I love Cain's stattaco writing style. He also includes so much great detail, such as the "blood red curtains" in Phyllis' living room. Further, Cain makes the action very believable and doesn't overlook any plot holes, which is not always the case in this genre. I really liked this book.
Having said that, I think that the movie (1944, directed by the peerless Billy Wilder) is even better than the book. I know that's blasphemous, but the movie is one of the all-time great American movies. Read the book and don't miss the movie either!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dash Manchette VINE VOICE on May 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
James Cain followed up his controversial THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE with another thin crime novel DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Like POSTMAN, it brings the reader into a world of moral indifference. In other words, it's great!

The action follows insurance agent Walter Huff, who has at some point come up with an insurance scheme to off a guy and collect the insurance. He discovers his partner in crime, Phyllis Nirdlinger, when she inquires about accident insurance for her husband. But this is James Cain writing. It is not going to be that easy, is it? You bet not.

Phyllis turns out to be way, waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy more dangerous than Walter ever imagined her to be. He learns too late that he is just one more patsy in Phyllis's own plans, much bigger and nastier than the ones Walter himself formulated. Complicating the matter is Phyllis's step-daughter, Lola, whose wholesomeness actually touches some soft spot in Walter's heart.

Perhaps Cain mellowed a little bit between POSTMAN and DOUBLE INDEMNITY. The main character actually feels some degree of guilt for the crime and actually shows concern for someone besides himself. Jeez, what a softie. Do not worry, though. There is enough human darkness here to satisfy even the hardest of readers' hearts.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By DrSpecter on February 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Walter Neff is a bored insurance salesman who fantisizes of ways to cheat the company by committing the perfect murder, without ever doing anything about it. Phyllis Nardlinger is a Hollywoodland housewife who is quietly psychotic, (complete with a fantasy of being the angel of death,) has killed before and will kill again. Just because you've seen the movie, don't think you know the book. Still shocking after nearly seventy years after publication!! POSTMAN is great but this one's greater!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By James Paris on September 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
In many ways, DOUBLE INDEMNITY is POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE redux -- the main exception being that POSTMAN's greasy spoon is replaced by a cozy upper middle class Spanish suburban house. In both books, a man is inspired by a sexy, discontented married woman into murdering hubby for gain.
POSTMAN's drifter is now a cocky insurance salesman (Walter Huff) who thinks he can both beat the odds and get the girl (Phyllis Nirdlinger), and -- why not? -- her daughter Lola as well. If you know anything about Greek tragedy, you can bet that the hubris mechanism is ready to spring into action with jaws agape.
James M Cain writes a tight novella that can easily be consumed in a single sitting. It's just that you feel you've been watching cockroaches mate from a great height. Few of Cain's novels show the least sign of sentiment, let alone liking, towards their characters. Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder's script for the film is actually far superior because the character of Keyes is developed into a moral center around which the story unrolls. (It also helps that Cain's INDEMNITY has a really gonzo ending.)
Nonetheless, Cain is what he is -- and his stories are always worth reading. But do see the Billy Wilder movie version!
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is another of those James M. Cain novels that you can read in an hour with one hand tied behind your back.

Let me try that again. This is another of those James M. Cain novels that you can read in an hour without breaking a sweat.

Okay, how's this? This is another of those James M. Cain novels that you can read in an hour even if you're the kind of person who moves your lips when you read.

This is not to imply that Cain is the kind of writer who mixes his metaphors or hasn't gotten beyond primer prose. I mean, Shakespeare mixed his metaphors. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if Cain wrote literature then it was by accident. Come to think of it, Shakespeare was only trying to turn a shilling, please a patron or give an actor some range. I guess real literature comes about when you're just trying to make ends meet and somehow you get inspired and don't even know it.

Cain didn't think much of this, calling it something like tripe and saying it would never be published as a book. He wrote it to appear as a serial in Redbook magazine, but Redbook rejected it so it appeared in Liberty magazine in 1935. It didn't make hardcover until the forties just before it was made into an excellent movie by Hollywood great Billy Wilder starring Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson. In fact, to be honest, the movie is better than the book, which as everyone knows, is usually not the case.

He also wrote this to take advantage of the surprising success of his first novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), which Knopf published to critical acclaim on its way to bestsellerdom.
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