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Customer Review

38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Father of noir, January 30, 2002
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This review is from: I Married a Dead Man (Crime, Penguin) (Paperback)
Cornell Woolrich was the father of film noir and this book certainly reads like it. Think Barbara Stanwyck, who starred in the movie version. One of Woolrich's other stories eventually became REAR WINDOW.
The pacing in the novel is remarkable. At first it almost stops as the girl stands in front of a door and later listens to the dial tone as she tries to reach her lover who has left her pregnant and alone. But then it picks up as the girl heads west on a train, meets a newlywed and her new husband who show her compassion. The train crashes and somehow the two switch places and the girl is summoned back east where she becomes Patrice, the rich girl.
I was also impressed by Woolrich's pronoun usage. He refers to the girl as "she", although she does have a name, Helen. He begins several sentences in a row with the word "she", doesn't worry about varying his paragraph beginnings. Yet, this doesn't bother the reader a bit. Later on when she switches places with the rich girl, she becomes Patrice, so I imagine Woolrich is saying something about social class.
The setting, The Great Depression, adds a lot to the story. When she dials her lover, the girl asks the operator for her nickel back because it's the only money she has. Her former lover does leave her five dollars, along with railroad tickets, but when she boards the train, she's left with only seventeen cents, which she keeps throughout the novel.
I was bothered by the beginning which, in effect, told us how the novel would end. I imagine this was supposed to add suspense, but all it did for me was tell me Patrice and Bill would eventually hook up. Also, that despicable heal Georgesson giving Helen five dollars didn't quite ring true, and I was wondering why he would travel thousands of miles to identify Helen's body when he obviously couldn't care less what happened to her. I can only surmise that Woolrich needed Georgesson to give her the railroad tickets as a plot device (which should be hidden).
The ending will also rattle some cages as the reader must furnish her own. You'll read it over several times, I can guarantee you.
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Location: Little Falls, Minnesota USA

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