No Sale by Patrick Conrad, translated from the Dutch by Jonathan Lynn
"I can imagine no more fascinating adversary than a cinema-loving psychopath who knows as much about film as I do....My life makes sense once again because I can finally put all this useless accumulation of knowledge to some good use. I am playing the leading role in a film of which I do not know the screenplay." So writes Victor Cox, a distracted, exhausted, decent and retired 60-year-old professor of film history whose head is filled with movie detritus. The professor soon finds himself a prime suspect in the gruesome murders of women; each murder styled to echo the death from a Hollywood movie. The first victim was his wife.
What a wonderful premise. What a clever and well-written novel. If a person likes old Hollywood movies as well as good writing it will probably be impossible not to keep smiling as one encounters bloody murder, difficult clues and irrelevant (are they?) Hollywood stories that pop unbidden into the professor's mind and dreams.
"Last night I dreamt that I had landed in a film by Hathaway or John Sturges. I was sitting in a dark bar that resembled the bar of the hotel and met a mysterious woman in an evening dress posing as a singer. She claimed to know the saddest song in the world. I asked if she would sing it for me but she refused." Later, she does.
Of course, there is a woman, a young, mysterious woman who has come into the professor's life like a gift. "Starr Mortenson - my star just as Dietrich was the star of von Sternberg or Harlow was the star of Capra....All my life I have fed on the dreams of others. A kiss was nothing but four lips six feet wide barely touching in close-up....Once again there is a woman in the house, which smells of love and coffee. She is sleeping in the room next door, her knees pulled up, and is sucking her thumb like Carroll Baker in Elia Kazan's Baby Doll."
Will a cinema-loving psychopath slaughter Starr Mortenson? And what about Starr Faithfull and Starr Baker? No Sale is an intricate, dense, murderous charmer well worth reading to find out.
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About the reviewer
C. O. DeRiemer (Charley2)
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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