Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review: Night Has A Thousand Eyes by Cornell Woolrich

Night Has a Thousand Eyes: A Novel“The night seemed darker than it was; the darkness was on the inside, not the out; I could barely see her face; there before me. Will, volition, was like a flickering candle flame going out in all that darkness, going lower, lower, lower, guttering to an end. Leaving the eternal, rayless night of fatalism, of predestination, to suffocate us, herself and me alike.”

A pitch black perfect noir opening where moonlight and the scattered remnants of a wrong doing haunt the pages, whispering murderous nothings on the chilled night air. Woolrich extends the beautifully poetic scenery and introspection to build tension coiled tight, the words like springs ready to snap, threatening to turn the mood from nervous apprehension to realised horror.

Woolrich does noir as it should be done. The characters of 'Night Has a Thousand Eyes' are depressing, self serving, and in need of misery for company. Despite Jean Reid's care for her father, whose death is foretold, her sense of belonging and personal grief, the 'what-if's' of a life alone, shadow the immediate threat to her father's life. Even the most optimistic of Woolrich's characters fall into a common shade of gray. This works very well for the theme of the novel where death is a but a clocks tick away, each sun up and sun down is one less fore a determined reaper is coming. Jean, and the police, are equally helpless to intervene.

Jerry Tompkins whose gift outweighs his nondescript appearance “just a farm boy, a lifelong misfit, embittered by the burden of something he wasn’t equipped to cope with.” is a mere cameo to the Reid's and adds little despite the prophetic plot bestowed upon him. The agent for Tompkins' vision, Eileen, the Reid's housemaid, who conveyed the vision to Jean is treated in a fashion which is undeserving yet right for the tone of the novel. The do-gooder punished for her open heart.

Woolrich delivers contrasting emotions depicted through light – a shining, sparkling wineglass; the reflected warmth radiating against the owners hand, the rays caressing his face as he extends the glass closer to his lips. Sunlight dancing through netted curtain, a clear blue sky unstained by cloud envelopes the character in a golden mist. The polar opposite drenching Jean in a vale of water streaming through a black night, tears and rain cascading down long gone make-up, the vision is a sad clown with little prospect for smiles. My interpretation of the mood and the delivery by which Woolrich depicts the contrasting and at time conflicting emotions were the highlight of the novel.

Despite best intentions, the novel was always going to head in one direction. Encompasing elements of the police procedural, albeit somewhat unorthodox, Woolrich attempted to diversify the counting clock linear plot only to detract from the awkward relationship and interesting unravel of Mr. Reid as he waited for death.

Into the lions den, death in a literal or figurative sense is to be served by one of the worlds fiercest hunters. Can Jean save her father and change fate? Will the words of a faded man prove true or do little more than to kill Jean's father one minute at a time? Read 'Night Has a Thousand Eyes' to find out.

This edition is published through Open Road Media - find out more on their website: http://www.openroadmedia.com/blog/tag/Pegasus%20Books.aspx

2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading it, Josh. I haven't read this Woolrich title. I'll look for it now. I liked your questions asked in your last paragraph. Thanks for the link, and review.

    Ed Lynskey

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    1. Thanks for the comment Ed. This book, and FRIGHT are decent noirs by Cornell Woolrich.

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