Posted on: 07/07/11
Make no mistake, this book is not a true mystery by definition. There really isn't a dead body. New to the AHML collection, but first published in 1952, this book has been resurrected under the category of "hard-boiled noir." It is short, not sweet, and packs a punch. There is a plethora of low-life characters with Willa Ree as their poster boy.
Given a female name at birth, Ree is a immoral hobo who descends upon a virtueless oil town in Texas like a sweeping vulture. It turns out that the town's mayor is looking for a man with Ree's talents to become police chief. One of Ree's talents is that he is unscrupulous and mercenary. While hired under the guise of defender of law and order, Ree establishes his goal of robbing the town blind and splitting before being caught and convicted.
What is fascinating about this book is that the tale is timeless. Trains still run. Towns are still corrupt. Men prey upon the weak. Woman are still used and spit out. Politicians are corrupt. Bullies prevail.
Davis' novella is not dated. There are no descriptions of old cars, clothing, or any other telltale signs of fiction created over 50 years ago. It simply reads like "a hot kiss at the end of a wet fist."