Monday, May 7, 2012

The Cutie (Donald E. Westlake, 1962)

Okay, cutie is not really that good looking chick on (as usually brilliant) hard case crime cover. It’s an expression that NYC biggest crime czar uses for murderer of some no-name starlet. Besides killing the poor soul this cutie character also tries to pin crime to some no-name stuttering junkie. And this junkie has apparently some connections in Europe, so czar is pissed off at cutie and he wants him punished. And this is where his right man – our hero – Clay comes into the play.

Sounds a bit far-fetched? It does, at least for me. But good thing is that story is masterfully told and you don’t have time to think about how idiotic the plot really is in its essence. And so for the first third you are really involved in it but then it unfortunately starts to fall apart. My main problem is total lack of any real investigation or classical detective work. Because Clay basically just compiles a list of victim’s ex husbands and boyfriends and then goes through it eliminating them one by one. It gets pretty absurd when at the end (pg. 221 to be precise) even occurs to him “that if was just barely possible that the killer wasn’t on my list at all.” And he’s not very skillful investigator in the first place to be honest. He uses “organization” to do most of the dirty work for him, but when he himself is interrogating suspects he comes up with shit like “I can’t think of any more questions. Can you think of any more answers?”

So you are not too disappointed/surprised by the ending. Without giving much away let’s just say that unfortunate girl wanted to hire a lawyer to handle her divorce and out of all the lawyers in New York, she picked her own husband. Come on Donald, get real!

So like in 361 it has great start and mediocre ending. Westlake is not really good at plotting but he is great at language and characterizations. Although that Ella chick was a bit redundant for me. She didn’t contribute anything to the story and was used only (1) to show that our hero possesses at least some kind of morals and has second thoughts about his work and (2) to also show at the end that he's too tough to afford having morals. Or something like that. Who cares anyway...



Clay. Long time ago he was George Clayton, today he is just Clay. He’s a right hand and troubleshooter of Ed Ganolese “crime czar” (in the tabloids) with a finger in the pie. Any pie. For cops he is “penny-ante crook with half an education, half a conscience, and half a mind

New York, early 60s

2 victims + Ella, first woman that makes Clay think about leaving his job.

Excellent one, done by Ken Laager

Body count: 4

Cool lines:
He kept shaking like an IBM machine gone crazy. (on junkie)

Billy-Billy doesn’t have strength to kill time (on the same junkie)

“Mavis St. Paul”. “Mavis?” He snickered again. “I’ll look for a broad named Mildred who came from St. Paul.”

His secretary, a big, well-busted, well-hipped blonde with an I-know-what-you-want-and-it-will-cost-you expression perpetually on her face, was just getting settled behind her desk.

Laura Marshall is easily described. It only takes four words. She’s a rich bitch suburban matron.

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