- Paperback: 115 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 14, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679723226
- ISBN-13: 978-0679723226
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 139 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Double Indemnity Reprint Edition
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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.
'[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.
Top customer reviews
That is amazing considering that there are only about a half dozen characters you need to keep track of in this book, but several of these characters turn out to be more than what they first appear to be. Cain is a master of suspenseful set ups and close calls, all the while turning your attention this way while setting things up for future plot twists and later surprises. While it does not have a Sam Spade style detective, this story is what film noir was all about: a world of glittering surfaces hiding a grimy underbelly, and a society of dubious morality where seemingly decent people can quickly find themselves well over their heads in the rush of events.
Loosely based on a true crime story, this is hardly a profound or deep book, but it remains a fast paced page turner. By all means watch the classic Billy Wilder movie, starring a well known slate of actors playing roles you would rarely associate with them, but you have to read the original short novel.
For those of us born after 1950, familiar with these actors in our living rooms, the movie brought some baggage. All three actors seemingly acted against type - star of My Three Sons, Mrs. Barkley, and the ultimate gangster. So the actors were incredibly compelling, acting against the type I knew, along with the tight script and the terse dialogue. The movie is very strong, and clearly stands alone as a fine example of film noir.
The book, however, provides excellent and more definitive characterizations of the players, with far more depth than can be glimpsed in the movie. There is at least one significant twist in the book that differentiates it from the movie. I still like the movie best, but I think, if I had read this first, I might have found the movie a trifle lacking.
The book is drenched with classic Noir elements such as a rejection of redemption, a generally bleak outlook on life, crime, murder, betrayal, and the juxtaposition of good and evil in what some call the virgin/whore dichotomy. This book is has an excellent plot and well written characters but I found Cain's style in this to be as bland as a frozen microwave dinner. Perhaps this is the genius of it all and simply the voice of a "boring" character (that is, boring before the train leaves the station). All the same, the book has many merits which redeem it so while it was not stylistically enticing, I was flipping page after page for other reasons. Not the best thing I've ever read but certainly worth reading.
Sociopathy is treated as the norm in this unsettling nail-biter. The reader never has a chance to stand on stable ground as Cain mixes suspense, red herrings, twisted love and greed to catapult his plot to its unexpected conclusion. It may be easy to read a book like this in 2012 and compare it to a number of things, but it's easy to lose track of just how avant-garde and shocking to readers it must have been when it was published in 1936.
Often imitated and never duplicated (Camus was influenced by this novelist before he wrote "The Stranger") Cain carved out an enduring style uniquely his own, which is a true mark of genius. Everything seems to be hard-core in the 21st Century, but this is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the beginnings of the crime genre and how it has evolved and interweaves with psychology to captivate its audience.
I highly recommend this book, which because of its brevity is ideal for reading while traveling, killing a few hours, or just seeing how a master plies his craft.