“This is Gil Henry. I’m in Harpersville. Does anyone want you to be dead?”
Gil Henry is the last person anyone would expect to become the hero of a hard-boiled mystery. A short, pudgy young man, he lives modestly at the YMCA and works as a very junior partner in a “law firm which trickles out to practically nothing by the time it gets to me.” He only gets the small clients, and Ruth McClure is just about the smallest there is. She has inherited some stock in Harper Products Company after the recent death of her father, who worked for the firm all his life. The owner of the company rouses her suspicions by offering to buy it back for far more than its value. Gil agrees to look into the transaction, only to find his quiet life turned upside down. Continue reading “The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope (1943) by C. W. Grafton”
“Love, when you get fear in it, it’s not love any more. It’s hate.”
Frank Chambers has always been a drifter. He’s never found anything worth staying in one place for, until the day he stumbles into a roadside diner and sees Cora Papadakis working the grill. Though their chemistry is undeniable, so is her husband, Nick. There seems to be one easy way to solve their problem, but for Frank and Cora, murder is just the beginning. Continue reading “The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain (1934)”
“What a succession of double-crosses had led up to all this […] Double-cross on double-cross. So many of them piled on top of each other. Double-cross on double-cross until the jumble became a big crisscross.”
It’s been said that there are only three motives for murder: love, money, or revenge. Some crimes are caused by all three. Johnny Thompson is a down-on-his-luck former boxer, trying to support his mother and brother by working as an armored car driver. Since they were kids, Johnny has loved Anna. Anna likes Johnny, but what she really loves is money. So she marries Slim, who always has plenty of dough and isn’t too particular about where he gets it.
Then Johnny sees a chance of getting everything he’s ever dreamed of. It’s not moral, and it’s not legal, but a smart guy like him could get away with it. Johnny thinks he knows all the angles. By the time he realizes what kind of game he’s really playing, he’s already in way over his head. Continue reading “Criss-Cross (1934) by Don Tracy”
“He was wondering what in hell he was mixed up in…It wasn’t good. It wasn’t good at all. He wasn’t coming out of this untouched. That was certain. For the first time in his life he felt helpless.”
For ten years, Red Bailey has been running from the past. As a seedy private detective in New York City, he accepted a job that changed him forever. Now he only wants to forget, burying himself in rural California where he runs a service station, trying to convince himself he could really marry the girl next door. But Red’s past is about to catch up with him, and she’s just as tempting, and just as deadly, as ever. Continue reading “Build My Gallows High (1946) by Geoffrey Homes”
“Life is filled with new experiences, but this was one I could have gotten along without. Two dead men in one day is a little hard on the system at best; it makes it sort of rough, when you end up with one of them in the trunk of your car.”
Most men would stop if they saw the luscious Marilyn K. stranded by the side of the road. Sam Russell is no exception. Marilyn’s traveling companion has just been killed in a car crash. He’s a married man, and she doesn’t want to get involved in a scandal. When she begs Sam to drive her to a motel, flashing a suitcase full of cash, it all seems too good to be true…and it is. In the beginning, Sam wants the girl and the money. By morning, he’ll settle for escaping with his life, but it may already be too late. Continue reading “Marilyn K (1960) by Lionel White”
“Listen, baby,” he said. “I don’t think you quite understand. There was a dead man there, a man that I have every reason to believe was murdered. Someone murdered him. And someone saw me there in that house.”
Fairlawn Acres is a typical American suburb, full of average, ordinary families. Howard McNally has a beautiful wife and child, but can’t stop thinking about the teenage babysitter. Len Neilsen stumbles into the wrong house after a drunken dinner with his boss, only to find himself “in a strange house, in a strange bedroom, with a man who was very dead.” He doesn’t even know which house it was, since they all look alike.
And Gerald Tomlinson has just stolen $48,000 from the South Shore Bank in a bloody shootout—money he’s determined to keep by any means necessary. Continue reading “The House Next Door (1956) by Lionel White”
“I know about your kind of man. You’d as soon kill as not. You, and those others in there, you’re all of you alike. All of you cowards and killers.”
The kidnapping went off without a hitch, but pulling a job is one thing; getting away with it is another. Cal Dent has been planning this caper for years and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make a clean getaway—even murder. But the more time he spends around one of his beautiful hostages, the more reluctant he is to let her go. As his perfect scheme starts falling apart, how far will Dent go to save his own skin? Continue reading “The Snatchers (1953) by Lionel White”
“It’s already too late. It’s been too late since I first met her. It’s been too late since the day I was born.“
Shy, middle-aged bachelor Louis Durand has a secret. For months now, he’s been corresponding with Julia Russell through a matrimonial agency. When she arrives in New Orleans for their wedding, however, Louis receives a big surprise. Instead of the plain, older woman he expected, Julia is a charming young beauty.
Durand falls head over heels for his new bride, but she may not be everything she seems. This couple are about to embark on a twisted journey of crime, betrayal, and, most mysterious of all, true love. Continue reading “Waltz into Darkness (1947) by Cornell Woolrich”
“Terror was a luxury. She couldn’t afford it now.”
Julie Guille first heard about the Blackbirder on the night Maxl died. As a French war refugee who is in the United States illegally, the last thing Julie wants is to catch the eye of an old acquaintance, especially a German. She agrees to dine with him only to avoid a scene. “She smiled at him. Her smile looked real. She had learned to form it that way.” That night Maxl tells her the amazing story of a pilot who smuggles refugees across the Mexican border, a man they call the Blackbirder.
When Maxl is stabbed to death in front of her apartment building, Julie knows she will be the prime suspect. Only one person can help her escape: the Blackbirder. To find him, she will have to make her way across a strange country, using the skills she learned in wartime France. With the FBI and the Gestapo on her trail, Julie will need every bit of her courage and intelligence if she hopes to survive. Continue reading “The Blackbirder (1943) by Dorothy B. Hughes”
“He has to live with himself. He’s caught there in that lonely place. And when he sees he can’t get away—” Brub shrugged “Maybe suicide or the nut house—I don’t know. But I don’t think there’s any escape.”
Someone is killing women in Los Angeles. Maybe it’s someone like Dix Steele, a war veteran drifting around the city, claiming he’s writing a book. A man who views most other men with contempt and women with something worse.
Yes, maybe it’s someone very, very much like Dix… Continue reading “In a Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes”