Double Indemnity – Review
Saturday is the perfect time to wander through the stacks (that’s librarian-speak for “bookshelves”) and talk about books and the people who write them. Pull up a comfy chair and settle in, because today I want to chat about a masterpiece of classic crime fiction and the ultimate bad romance: James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity.
Double Indemnity (both the novel and the film) tells the story of Walter Huff, an insurance salesman with a nose for clients that are looking to game the system. Alarm bells go off when he meets Phyllis Nirdlinger, who wants to buy her husband accident insurance…but doesn’t want her husband to know about the accident insurance. What follows is the story of a murder, love turned to hate, and the descent of a good man into the depths of depravity – all for the love of a no-good woman and fifty thousand dollars.
I’m a big fan of the 1944 film by the same name, so I was anticipating that I would enjoy the book, but WOW. This was an absolutely incredible read. Taut, suspenseful, heart rending, and with an ending that Hollywood couldn’t even come close to and clearly didn’t even dare to try. I think it’s amazing how Cain manages to keep Huff a semi-sympathetic character throughout the entire story, even when you know what he’s going to do, what he’s done, and what he’s planning next. The way he describes things, the way he lets you in Huff’s head – it really does feel like the entire tragic tale was somehow inevitable, even though you know he did it to himself.
If you’re looking for a deadly duo that can’t be beat, Phyllis and Walter have got to be it. Their relationship is like a trainwreck – you really can’t help but watch and it feels almost wrong to look away. Anyone wanting to write a romance that’s doomed from the start, that’s rotten at its core, needs to read this book and take copious notes. I promise, it will not disappoint.