Isn't it great when you find a book that is just pure joy to read? Such is my experience with this wonderful crime story from pulp writer Gil Brewer. Originally published in 1958, it's been reissued under the excellent Hard Case Crime imprint.
This is a tale of greed and lust. Jack Ruxton is a television repair man. He visits the home of the wealthy, but ailing Victor Spondell who is being nursed by his very attractive 18-year-old stepdaughter, Shirley Angela. Naturally, Ruxton and Shirley fall for each other. If only Victor would just hurry up and die, they would be able to be together. They would also be very rich. A plan is hatched to make their dreams come true.
It's an enthralling story and brilliantly written. There is no verbiage. The story is told in the first person from Ruxton's point of view and is related in colourfully punchy prose that will keep you turning the pages. The characters are not particularly likeable. Perhaps this is self-evident given that the male and female leads are plotting murder. But even their victim comes across as quite unpleasant. It's unusual, for me at least, to enjoy a novel where most of the characters are so unsympathetic. It's also unusual to read a novel that has such a small cast of characters.
Although almost fifty years old, this is my favourite novel of 2007 so far. If you enjoy a good crime story, this should not be missed. It's quite short at 220 pages and the story moves along very quickly towards its stunning conclusion.
The cover art also deserves a mention. Hard Case Crime have some excellent cover paintings gracing their novels, and `The Vengeful Virgin' is no exception. Utterly superb.