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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
Laura (Vintage Classics)
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on 2 December 2017
A really good read, and reinforced the film.
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on 13 April 2013
Good storyline, well told. The story unfolds through the eyes of the two main characters - it's nicely done.
The narrative is dated - unsuprisingly perhaps.
Overall, I enjoyed the book.
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on 26 July 2016
great thanx
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on 4 February 2013
very good indeed,went through it like a train.good to have a story line that you can follow from the being
One person found this helpful
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on 3 February 2009
How is it that this wonderful psycho-drama-crime-thriller has faded into time, relegated to strictly cult status, while glossy, empty dross fills the bookshelves today? - the stuff produced for women is by far the worst. You know the stuff I mean - a cartoony woman dashes across the cover, shoes, handbags and babies flying around her. It's all terribly predictable and middle class and the writing has no more depth or value than the latest edition of "Hello" magazine. I think crime fans and women alike will find this refreshing. It made me think of Minette Walters' excellent "The Ice House" for the intensity of the characterisations, and for the way crime and romance are darkly threaded together.

The excellent 1944 film "Laura" by Otto Preminger is certainly a different thing from Vera Caspary's book, from which the film was adapted. I don't know about you, but I had had no i0dea - such is the way that history tends to write women out of the picture - that women writers were integral to every sub-genre of pulp fiction from the 30s to the 50s. Of course, Patrick Hamilton, a British writer working in the 30s and 40s, was equally popular with his contemporaries, and became equally forgotten - until now. Perhaps Caspary will eventually get her due, thanks to the heroic re-printers of lost fiction.

*some spoilers from here* It's really hard to describe the story without giving away important details. Laura Hunt is a successful advertising exec who lives in New York's posh Upper East Side; she is surrounded by admirers but has preferred to stay single, till now. Shocking news of her shooting starts the book off, and the story is concerned with the views and actions of her friends - particularly her catty friend Waldo Lydecker, art historian and man of letters, her fiancé, louche playboy Shelby Carpenter, and her rich aunt Mrs Treadwell - and the efforts by detective Mark McPherson to solve the crime. "Laura" has shades of melodrama and lurid psychodrama - but also, great sketches of wit, humour and really intelligent psychological insight. Caspary draws Laura's world with great economy; her characters are excellently developed; her prose clever, accomplished and smooth (though perhaps not quite so distinctive and iconic as Hammett's or Chandler's). The police work leaves much to be desired - but then Caspary wasn't interested in procedure. Throughout the various sections of this book the authorial voice switches expertly from that of Wildean Waldo, to terse, taut McPherson, to the eponymous Laura herself - each person is a flesh-and-blood, fallible, judgemental human. I've re-read the book several times and knowing `how it ends' doesn't lessen the enjoyment one whit - I hang on every word, enjoying the way her characters express themselves. It's addictive stuff, which is why it helped make such a compelling film.

Laura's is the most complex character: strong, independent, struggling for her right voice and a sense of herself in a world of men. She may have as many clothes and shoes and handbags as those modern-day chick-lit women, but she isn't defined by these things; they merely add another dimension to a self already rich in interest and occupation. Unlike in the film, Laura is something more complicated than merely beautiful. She's intelligent and subtle, and, as Lydecker tells McPherson, she has a way of listening which makes a man feel like he's the only man in the world. But she lives for herself, too, in a way which I think the 1950s tried to force out of women's lives: she works for herself, to pay for a rich enjoyment of life, and any success belongs absolutely to her.

McPherson was already reaching - up out of his poverty-stricken past, his cop-past, his grim assumptions about `dames' and `dolls' - and in finding Laura - first existing only as a dead memory - he finds the thing he has been reaching for all this time. Their mutual isolation - he as hunter, and she as, in some way, hunted, in a world which distrusts them both - makes them dear to each other, right in the midst of the suspicion under which she labours in all their eyes. This is how I like my love stories - a little murky or dark, a little a bit off - not "hundred per cent" as Lydecker says. The plot twists and twists again, and spirals to a melodramatic finale. Who knows if Laura and Mark glide off into a perfect future together? - I suspect not. His lifetime's conditioning about women will kick in, and she'll kick back. But they'll have a chance - and that's as good as it gets in a world where you can't control the motivations of the people around you.

If you're tired of reading about women's shoes and handbags, or if the latest crime publication seems a bit empty and formulaic, it's time you rediscovered this.
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on 31 December 2012
I have seen the film several times so when I discovered the book was released I was eager to read it. The book was excellent, I loved the feel of the 1930 - 1940s period, great characters and a great story!!!
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on 3 February 2015
Great service and quality. Will be adding to my collection
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 March 2018
It's not a genre I read a lot of, but I saw this on the 'crime' display at the library and knew the title from the film. Time to try it!

A beautiful young woman has been shot in her apartment. The detective assigned to the case digs deeply to find out what happened. Why was she killed? Who would have murdered someone who seemed to be a rather lovely person?

Though I don't often read noir/crime classics, it did feel very much like it ticked the boxes you'd expect - mysterious woman, hard-boiled detective, mysterious murder to be solved, clues that lead to more questions.

Laura, the woman at the heart of it all, is a character without speaking - her past scenes, her friends talking about her. Waldo, the friend and mentor is almost the main character though - a writer with ego who seems to take over the story at times. He reminded me of Noel Coward, who he name-checked in fact.

I really enjoyed the story, with a great twist, though the final solution was incredibly long-drawn-out and melodramatic. It's pretty short, entertaining, in the Sam Spade vein though the detective isn't on a par with him.

Just after I read this, Laura appeared on TV, so I'm now looking forward to seeing the adaptation.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 May 2017
The Library of America has released a two-volume box set, "Women Crime Writers" which includes eight suspense novels written by women, with four books from the 1940's and four books from the 1950's. The collection opens with Vera Caspary's "Laura" published in 1942-1943. Otto Preminger's eponymous 1945 film has become famous and has overshadowed the book. But Caspary's novel is worth reading in its own right. Sarah Weinman, the editor of the LOA volumes, made an inspired choice by opening the collection with "Laura". I read the novel in the LOA anthology but it deserves a review on its own.

"Laura" is a complex multi-dimensional novel set in New York City in the early 1940s. Pigeonholing literature can be deceiving, and it would be a mistake to consider "Laura" a noir novel. It is more akin to a suspense, detective story and features a detective as a primary character. It is also a romance and a story of a woman making her way in the world.

The book revolves around the apparent murder of Laura Hunt, a single woman of 29 who has achieved success working for an advertising agency in New York City. The story is tightly-knit and includes four primary characters, Laura herself, Waldo Lydecker, 52, a pudgy collector of antiques and a renowned columnist, Shelby Carpenter, 32, Laura's fiancé, and Mark McPherson, the young detective assigned to solve Laura's murder. McPherson must solve the murder from a small group of suspects. In the process, he becomes emotionally attracted to the woman whose death he is called upon to resolve.

The book shows depth in its handling of character, particularly of the ambitious and emotionally vulnerable Laura and of the taciturn, self-educated, and deeply romantic detective. Laura, an independent career woman before this became a norm, is sociable and also looking for love. She has been the friend of the pudgy, eccentric Lydecker for many years who has harbored romantic designs on her. Carpenter is Laura's junior at the advertising agency and he has a strong tendency to wander to other women.

The story builds slowly with many twists and turns. Lydecker, McPherson, and Laura each tell part of the tale in the first person from their own perspectives. Caspary has an excellent ear for voice and character, with each section of the story revealing a great deal about the teller as well as moving along the plot. The book offers glimpses of 1940's New York City, primarily in upper-class neighborhoods, businesses, and restaurants but with scenes of hardscrabble life in the poorer sections as well.

The LOA volume offers background on the book and its author. "Laura" was first published in serialized form in 1942 before the publication of the book in 1943. It was dramatized and produced on stage before Hollywood bought the movie rights leading to Preminger's film. The book has been in and out of print over the years, while the movie has become a classic. Caspary (1899 -- 1987) led a long eventful life and first became a writer while holding a series of commercial jobs. She wrote several novels before and after "Laura" together with an autobiography. Caspary became a member of the communist party in the 1930s, travelled to Russia, and attempted to resign from the party. Her radicalism and association with communism lead to difficulty in the l1940s and 1950s. There is an element of social criticism in "Laura", but in its writing and understanding of loneliness and the human condition, the book readily transcends ideology. As often happens in literature, the author in "Laura" is wiser than her creed.

"Laura" is a classic American suspense novel worthy of its new place in the Library of America. The LOA kindly sent me a review copy of its new anthology of "Women Crime Writers".

Robin Friedman
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on 15 December 2012
I received this book from Vintage through Nudge.

The body of a young woman is found in the doorway of an elegant New York apartment. The woman's face has been blown away by a shotgun but since the apartment belongs to Laura Hunt who lived there alone, the body is soon identified as being hers. Mark McPherson, a detective working for the New York Police Department doesn't usually investigate murders but has been assigned this case anyway. And it isn't long before he finds himself intrigued by the woman who was Laura Hunt; an independent career woman in an age in which those were rare and not quite accepted yet; a woman who was proud of her ability to look after herself but still wanted and needed that big love in her life. And the men closest to Laura are fascinating McPherson too. The vaguely familiar fiance the detective can't quite place and the suave and self-obsessed friend, Waldo Lydecker who seems as eager to praise the dead girl to the heavens as he is to show up her limitations. Laura was a woman who inspired passions in those who knew her and much to his amazement, McPherson finds himself falling for the deceased woman he has never met while alive. When he returns to Laura's apartment one stormy night, McPherson makes a shocking discovery; one that will turn his case on its head and cause new suspicions to arise as well as new threats to emerge.

This was a fascinating mystery, quite unlike anything I've read in the recent past. Originally published in 1943 this book is probably very much a product of its time and in many ways it is a classic mystery; a gruesome murder described in little detail with a limited cast of suspects. One of the things that makes this book extra-ordinary is that the book is narrated by three different characters in turn and in several different formats. With that many narrators there is always the risk of giving away too much information, of the solution to the mystery becoming obvious long before the end of the story. It is due to the cleverness of the author that this wasn't the case in this book. Although I did zoom into the guilty party fairly early on in the book that had nothing to do with what that particular character said or wrote; it was pure instinct. Giving several characters the opportunity to write or tell their story in their own words does require some suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader though. If you had committed a murder and were writing about that and subsequent events you would mention the fact that you had committed the murder. After all, your papers or journal would be private to you so there would be no reason to be secretive. Of course no such revelations are to be found in the papers our investigator has at his disposal, which, while it does mean the mystery stays unresolved until the very end, does make the story less realistic.

On the other hand, the author has to be applauded for the way in which she manages to give the various characters in this story their own, unique voice. Laura sounds nothing like the McPherson and nobody could ever sound like Waldo Lydecker. Another thing Mrs. Capari did very well was convey the atmosphere and environment in which the story takes place without indulging in lengthy descriptions. The hints the reader gets about the characters and their surroundings are subtle, clever and very revealing. They paint a vivid picture of the true natures of the characaters and of the world they inhabit.

I would call this a literary mystery. This book is as much about the writing, about style and about the quirks of people as it is about the mystery of who killed the beautiful young woman. It is also a book with a sense of humour; Waldo Lydecker, who narrates the first part of the book, doesn't like mysteries yet is writing about the murder of his friend, Laura, with a certain amount of glee.

Despite the book only having 171 pages this is not a quick read. The writing requires attention and concentration from the reader and I found myself taking short periods of time out of my reading in order to visualize something which had just been described.

I would call this a clever and literary mystery. A good book for anyone who enjoys beautiful writing with their bloodshed.
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