Thursday, May 31, 2012

Night Walker (Donald Hamilton, 1954)

First 90% of this book is simply brilliant and a reason why I go through so much shitty and mediocre pulps. It’s all worth in the end to read such quality stuff. Story is pretty simple and we’ve heard it all before many times. We have this mistaken identity man without a face with a shady past who gets involved in some sinister happening together with this strange femme fatale.

What I loved about it is that our hero basically has no influence whatsoever on events and actions. He just sits tight (or lies injured in the bed) in this big old mansion house and is totally puzzled and powerless to control situation. His instincts keep telling him he’s being fucked and his “partner in crime” dame is lying and misleading him and destroying evidence all the time but for some reason he just doesn’t pack his stuff and leave. And in the meantime plot is progressing as we are introduced to few pretty colourful characters (victim’s young friend/possible lover, her eccentric aunt, local doctor with secret/strange motives) and some sinister background involving international espionage. End of the story is rather disappointing but more about that later.

Our main protagonist is cool but Carol definitely steals the show from him and I cannot remember the last time I encountered such a cool femme fatale. I would like to think that author himself liked her a lot because descriptions of her are much better and detailed than those of the other characters. Just loved those southern “I declare”! And she is 'fatale' all right – the only constant thing about her is that she’s constantly lying. Cool thing is that our hero also knows that and here is short outline about their relationship’s progression:
  1.  Her voice was sweet and wholly insincere, yet her nearness was pleasant and reassuring. He said, “Elizabeth, you’re a fraud. If I went near that phone, you’d probably shoot me.”
  2. He wanted very much to trust her but knew that he couldn’t afford to. Theirs was not a relationship built upon trust and respect but simply upon loneliness and mutual need.
  3. Neither of them had said anything; there had been nothing to say. Her whole story had been a fabric of deceit.
  4. He did not look at her. He knew her well enough now that he did not even have to see her face to know when she was lying, although her reasons were not always clear.
  5. He found that he was thinking of her very much in the way he might have thought of a girl who had contracted a disease from which she was not expected to recover.
Marvellous, isn’t it?! Writing is superb anyhow and has this really claustrophobic feeling to it. Story starts in the car, then moves for a short period of time to a hospital and then takes place for the most part in a secluded house and finally ends on the boat. And our main protagonist has his face covered in bandages which also emphasizes confinement. Simply brilliant, it reads like a play and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Like said, ending is a bit disappointing. Not because it’s bad, it’s just that tension is built so well that you expect some big surprising twist. After all that careful plotting and scheming it deserves better, more hard-boiled climax with some shocking revelation but instead it just settles for quite ordinary espionage thriller conclusion. But I don’t really mind because everything else is perfect!



David Young, Navy Lieutenant, 29.

place near Bayport, Maryland

Body count
3 (and it’s pretty cool because number once actually decreases!)

Elizabeth Wilson

Cool lines:
We’re all real respectable folks, and this is our first kidnapping.

It was a house that took itself seriously, but the shaggy condition of the grounds gave it an unkempt look, like that of an elderly aristocratic gentleman with alcoholic tendencies.

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