Insurance agent Walter Huff gets into deep water when he meets beautiful temptress Phyllis Nirdlinger. Cooking up a plot to kill the woman’s husband, Huff looks forward to getting the money and the girl. Unfortunately, the plan to pull off the perfect murder falls foul of Huff’s boss, Barton Keyes, who knows more about insurance fraud than a rabbit knows about carrots.
James M Cain had already published four novels (including Mildred Pierce and The Postman Always Rings Twice) when he penned this one, inspired by the Ruth Snyder case in 1927. First published in serial format, it’s a fairly short read with snappy dialogue and no fluff. Though Raymond Chandler’s 1944 screenplay has better lines and a different ending (more suited to Hollywood), the book is still a cracking good read.
One of the issues some readers find with the book, is that classic noir novels like this can come over as a bit dated, but you have to remember that few writers were knocking out stories of this calibre at the time. Some folks say Cain is the father of hardboiled/noir fiction, but whatever your opinion, he certainly deserves a place at the crime-writers table, alongside the likes of Chandler, Hammett and Ross Macdonald.
A great read for lovers of crime fiction and American noir.