Cain's first novel - the subject of an obscenity trial in Boston and the inspiration for Camus's The Stranger - is the fever-pitched tale of a drifter who stumbles into a job, into an erotic obsession, and into a murder.
My take: 3 looks
In a novella that takes 116 pages to fully develop two characters, commit a murder, and leave behind a trail of devastation, James M. Cain's first book crowns him king of noir.
Frank is a committed drifter, but the beautiful Cora makes him want to change his entire life just to have her. Trouble is, Cora is married to the good-hearted restaurant owner, Nick. Maybe it's not so much trouble, after all, as Frank and Cora concoct what they are sure is the perfect murder.
With sharp, staccato dialogue and the kind of backdrop that harkens to the heyday of film noir in the 1940's, it not hard to see this book play out as a black and white movie in your mind. With a classic twist at the end, the reader finds that the postman does, indeed, always ring twice.