26 July 2009
Peter Rabe: A SHROUD FOR JESSO
Time for truth: I didn't actually read two Peter Rabe books in a row, even though I did like Anatomy of a Killer quite a bit. What I actually read was one book containing two Peter Rabe novels that were of such divergent quality that they necessitated two separate reviews. Got it? OK, cool. Now, the first thing I want to make clear is, that doesn't automatically mean that A Shroud for Jesso was a shitty book, because it wasn't: it's just that Anatomy of a Killer was really good noir, and A Shroud for Jesso was your standard fifties-sixties noir. Definitely not bad, but it didn't stand out, either. The plot was a little bit contrived, although not really as such things go (believe me, some noir can be really contrived)--a guy, Jesso, has information other people want. He's very difficult to kill. A dangerous woman falls in love with him. He almost comes out on top, and then there's a depressing denouement. In this particular case, a good part of the action takes place in enclosed spaces: on a boat, in a house. I don't think this claustrophobic aspect is played up quite as well as it could be (in general, what separates Anatomy from Shroud is the far superior atmosphere of the almost-experessionistic Anatomy). Alright: now that I've tossed around a few European art buzzwords, let's just give this a grade and finish things off. I think a B sounds fair.