Fright – Cornell Woolrich

Prescott Marshall is about to tie the knot, but a drunken misadventure shortly before his big day sees him wind up in bed with another woman.  It isn’t long before the young woman shows up and begins to blackmail Marshall for money in exchange for keeping her mouth shut.  The situation comes to a head when she arrives on his doorstep the day of his wedding.  Having hit his limit, Marshall murders her in a fit of rage.  Thinking his problem is now in the rear view mirror, his troubles are only just beginning.

Following the murder, Marshall spends the rest of the book dancing on the edge of a razor blade.  Woolrich takes the Marshalls out of New York City and ships them to some “faraway town” (it’s literally stated as such) where things really begin to spiral out of control.  Woolrich never allows the reader to get too comfortable by constantly providing an enemy for Prescott to focus on.  This creates – at most points – a good page turner.  That said, the novel does tend to drag in a few places – especially in the moments where Woolrich starts to wax philosophically about the nature of life and death.  Don’t get me wrong, the writing is particularly strong but mostly when it comes to the subtle conflict between Prescott and his wife Marjorie building to an intense confrontation.

The ending was definitely on the shocking end of things and not one that I saw coming at all.  There’s a brief epilogue, or postscript, that didn’t do a whole lot for me.

This isn’t a boring book by any means, but it’s certainly not the best of the best that I’ve read from their collection.  However, Charles Ardai and the folks at Hardcase really know what to look for when selecting a book to publish as this basically ticks all the boxes on the noir checklist.

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