Monday, March 22, 2021

To Find a Killer by Lionel White

This can happen. There is a writer you like, you admire his style, his plotting, everything about his work, you really love his books. Then you get your hands on one of his titles and it just falls short.

This happened to me with Lionel White’s 1954 crime novel To Find a Killer. But, being a fan of White, I hung in there. The guy was a craftsman who knew how to tell a complex crime story in a blunt, hard-boiled style. So, I figured there was something good ahead. 

After a slow start, it picked up momentum. The book never reached greatness, but it was not too bad. 

The problem with To Find a Killer is its main character. Marty Ferris is a New York police detective with a good track record and a reputation as a tough guy not shy about applying physical pressure to a suspect in need of encouragement to confess.

Marty has a problem. He suspects his good-looking wife is an unfaithful liar with a criminal past. A friend in the FBI found her real name and her prison record, both of which she kept from Marty.

While working a new homicide case of a beautiful night club singer who was found murdered in her apartment, Marty gets an idea that will solve his personal problem. He will pressure a suspect in the murder case into murdering his wife. Marty’s plan is complex, but perfect, he thinks.

Many a character in a Lionel White novel thinks his detailed plan is perfect only to have the whole thing unravel. 

To Find a Killer does not come up to level of The Snatchers (1953), the book White published the year before, or to the level of the book he published the following year, Clean Break (1955), which might be his most famous novel thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s film based on it called, “The Killing.” 

Lionel White (1905-1985), a former reporter who turned novelist when he was in his late 40s, wrote more than 35 books.

1 comment:

  1. I ought to read some of his work. I've recently picked up a couple with that intention in mind.