Tag Archives: noir

Laura by Vera Caspary

Remember my enthusiasm when I found out my favorite movie was first a book? Well, it finally came in at the library! 

Plot: Laura Hunt’s mysterious death has shocked New York. The ambitious young woman has been found dead, shot in the face in her apartment. Lieutenant Detective Mark McPherson has been assigned to the case. As he uncovers more about Laura, he becomes increasingly obsessed with her. Soon he realizes he’s been seduced by a dead woman—or has he?

Thoughts: I love this movie. I could probably quote most of it.  There is something about the scene where McPherson, played by Dana Andrews, is staring at the portrait of Laura and falling in love with her even though he thinks she is dead that wins my heart every time.

I set such high expectations on this book that I don’t think it ever could have lived up to them. It was a really good read and yet not quite what I hoped for. It was wonderfully written. I liked the changing viewpoints. I liked the story. The twists are good. Yet, it wasn’t the movie. The pacing felt off. Lines were delivered in different settings and certain, critical scenes from the movie are non-existent in the book.

However, separating the book from the movie…it was a solid read. It was one of the most enjoyable noir reads I’ve found in a long time. The author uses light and darkness, shadows and storms, flowers and foreshadowing, to highlight scenes and create atmosphere. There were many themes laced throughout the story. The romance was somewhat more believable than the movie (oops, not comparing those two anymore) and I thought the balance of the three suitors and what they represented to Laura was interesting. Laura herself is a very complicated character. We get glimpses of her from a few different perspectives and it is interesting to try and figure out what is false and what is real. Womanhood itself gets examined in this story. Is Laura a doll? Dame? Femme fatale? Society woman? Country girl? Are the women around her grasping, slutty, innocent, or confused? This isn’t so much a whodunnit as a examination of human character. I think that is why there is less “shock value” with the final twist at the end. The point isn’t so much “Who killed Laura?” as “Who was Laura?”
I liked the ending. It was somewhat different than the movie. 

Overall, I would give the book a solid 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed it and might have loved it if I didn’t know the movie so well. 


Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

I picked up Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham by accident. I remembered that I had a book on my to-read list that was something-Undercover (Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown, as it happens) but I had forgotten what so I decided to check Scarlett out. Even once I figured out my mistake, I was pleasantly intrigued by the premise of the story and decided to finish it. And it wasn’t bad. However, it never lived up to its potential. 

Plot: Scarlett is a smart, fifteen-year-old Muslim-American orphan who runs a detective business. When she gets hired to investigate the suicide of a local teenager, she assumes the case will be pretty open and closed. However, she quickly stumbles into something much larger and more dangerous, something that might even lead her to solve her Father’s murder. 

Thoughts: I’m a sucker for a good noir style detective story and I was drawn to Scarlet Undercover‘s promise of just that. I was excited for the unusual heroine and I was even down with the fantasy/mythical/chosen one style mystery that went along with her. The story does live up to some of its promise. However, as the book progressed, I grew more and more confused about what was going on. There is a magical ring that plays a large role in the last half and all I could think of was: 

But seriously. Rings…cults…magic…churches…Jewish boys…guardian angels…end of the world…this plot is everywhere. It is a lot to take in. Plus, there are too many characters. I kept forgetting people. The story starts out simply enough but blows up into something enormous. Yet even with this sprawling plot, I never felt the enormity of the situation. Perhaps the problem is with Scarlett, who never quite seems to believe it either. She takes everything in stride, follows flashes of intuition, and even during the climax is confident and sassy. She never seemed to believe the artifacts were magical and so I never felt it either.
However, I really did like Scarlett. She’s tough and sassy and fun to read. She doesn’t get bogged down in angst. The romance was unbelievable but there is basically no development of it so you don’t have to put up with more than an occasional paragraph. 

Overall, I didn’t dislike anything overly much about this story, I just felt ambivalent or confused about a lot. It is nice to see some cultural and ethnic diversity in a YA heroine. I’d read more by this author. I don’t necessarily recommend this one, though.