The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes by the famed author Lawrence Block (best known for his novel A Walk Among the Tombstones) is a interesting take on a classic pulp trope. This novel was an interesting, enjoyable, and surprising read.
The story follows a man named Doak Miller. Doak is an ex-cop from New York City. And while he isn't officially licensed as a private eye, he does manage to do small favors, investigative work, and even legwork for the local sheriff for a little extra money.
Doak lives in small town Florida since his retirement from the force. It is here in this town where he meets Lisa. Lisa is an unhappy housewife to a rich businessmen. While Doak is supposed to be helping the police in a sting operation he instead falls in love with Lisa. And he and Lisa decide they need to kill Lisa's husband.
The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes has a nice balance of pulp, noire, and realism in it all together. The characters are interesting, even if the majority of them are despicable people. The story goes at a slow, but steady, clip. I could have been interested in a little more action, but this book was obviously more of a slow brood, a character study almost, of a normal man turned murderer.
I felt the novel, although well written and enjoyable, had a slight abundance of sexual content that was unnecessary to the plot. I also see points where Block shied away from sexual content when he could have easily played it up. However, I still felt that the main relationship between Lisa and Doak (as well as their sexual rendezvous) could have been implied, or "off screen," rather than blatantly on the page.
I also felt that the use of rape as a plot point was unnecessary. It seems that many male authors fall into the trap of using rape in their stories either as a plot point for a female character or simply to add a shock value to the story. I feel that Block could have gotten the same meaning across without the rape scene. But sexual content aside, it was ultimately the characters who carried this story--and that is what made this novel shine.
Leading up to the very end I grew anxious. I found myself quickly growing frustrated with where it seemed the story was going to end. All the foreshadowing throughout the book (mostly played out in Doak's choice of TV programming) seemed to point to one thing, and yet the story was doing another thing.
I was frustrated with it up until the very last sentence, which completely summed up the theme of the novel and the characters perfectly. This last line is what made this book amazing for me. It was a good read, with good writing that kept you going. Don't expect an action packed pulp mystery with twists and turns. But DO expect an interesting view of the "wife+lover murder husband" formula.
N.C. Patterson is a writer of mystery and horror fiction. He has been an active publicist, journalist, and blogger in the indie horror community for over five years.