Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Very Different Books from Day Keene

Home Is the Sailor (Hard Case Crime #7)Home Is the Sailor by Day Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a career at sea, Swede Nelson comes ashore with the thought of buying a farm in Minnesota and finding a nice girl to marry. It's a shame he runs into the widow Corliss Mason, the owner of the Purple Parrot, and her web of sex, lies, and murder...

Home is the Sailor, much like fellow Hard Case entry The Vengeful Virgin, is straight out of the James M. Cain playbook. You know the plot: a guy falls for a hot young woman and commits murder for her, then starts cracking under the pressure once he realizes she's bad news.

When Corliss comes to Swede the night before their wedding saying she's been raped, who wouldn't do what Swede did? Swede's drunken binges are believable, all things considered. The big reveal near the end was a little obvious but getting there was still one hell of a ride. When the cops start nosing around and Swede begins figuring out what Corliss is really up to, tension mounts and the story kicks into high gear.

So why didn't I give it a five? I found it a little unbelievable that Swede fell so hard for Corliss so fast. As I said before, the big reveal is telegraphed slightly.

If you're a Hard Case fan, this is one of the must-haves.

L.A. 46L.A. 46 by Day Keene
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

L.A. 46 is the story of the tenants of Casa del Sol, a LA apartment complex. That's pretty much it as far as summaries go.

Everyone's heard the old adage "You can't judge a book by its cover." You shouldn't but you also should give what's on the cover some consideration. My first exposure to Day Keene was Home is the Sailor, a bleak noir tale straight from the James M. Cain school. When I saw L.A. 46 on the vintage pile at my favorite used bookstore, I snapped it up, the blurb on the cover comparing the novel to Peyton Place barely registering.

L.A. 46 reminds me of the night time soap operas that were so popular in the 80's. All the stock characters are here: The psychiatrist in love with one of his patients, the two models who may or may not be lesbians, the reporter everyone hates, the pregnant woman harboring a dark secret, and many others.

It took me a little while before I realized no hot young vixen was going to get some schmuck to off her husband for her but by then, Keene had me hooked anyway. The bastard. It must have been the prostitute, the stripper, and the woman pregnant with her long-lost brother's child that did it for me. Keene managed to hold my attention, that's for sure.

The most memorable part of the book was the ending, however. I think all the violence Keene had been suppressing exploded from his typewriter at that point. Did Dallas or Dynasty ever have a bloody hostage situation?
While it wasn't what I expected, L.A. 46 was an engaging read. Just don't expect noir goodness like Home is the Sailor.

Still on Goodreads

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