Review of “The Black Angel”

The Black Angel: A Novel

The Black Angel: A Novel by Cornell Woolrich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It will be hard to write this without spoilers, but I’ll try. (If you must, you can read more about it at… . )

First, this is an excellent example of a noir detective. From the first page, you are drenched in the era of dames, dolls, and darkness. Woolrich’ descriptions are painted in black, white and gray (I couldn’t imagine it any other way). Characters are all flawed. Even the narrator (great use of first-person) starts as pure but quickly adapts to her new world so that at the end, she is filled with the same moral ambiguity that the others have.

Second, the device of building the novel around the names in a phone book works. Each chapter stands alone as a great story (which they were at one point). Taken together, they become a pilgrim’s progress for Alberta as she goes from naivete to knowledgeable about the wickedness of the world.

Finally, (here is where it is hard not to include a spoiler) the ending was a shock but one that fit in the world of the novel and the characters.

Bottom line – probably the best novel I have read all year. I will be hunting down more of Woolrich’s stories in the future.

A final note, based on the description on IMDB, the movie version is nothing like the book, including the creation of an entirely new character. Too bad because I kept seeing my favorite 40s stars in all the roles.

View all my reviews

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