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Hard Case Crime recently brought back an interesting curio from thirty years ago. Into The Night was an unfinished manuscript by Cornell Woolrich, the master of fever dream paranoia. After it's discovery, Lawrence Block, a plain master, was asked to complete the work. The result is an interesting meeting of two different generations with the following showing respect to the other.

The book kicks off in Woolrich fashion. Madeline, a woman at the end of her emotional rope, contemplates suicide with her father's gun. Fate tells her not to commit the act. In relief, she drops the gun and it discharges a bullet that flies out the window and kills a woman passing by, Starr Bartlett.

No one suspects Madeline, but the guilt drives her to find out more about Starr. Some of the best suspense is drawn out of the second chapter where Madeline maneuvers to uncover more about her accidental victim without giving away who she is to the people who knew the woman. She learns that Starr was going through her own depression from her man jilting her for another woman. As penance, Madeline vows to hurt the woman and kill the man.

To go any further would give away too much. Woolrich was known for one dark plot point after another with it getting worse and worse for the main character. I assume from the style and attitude, Lawrence Block had a lot to do with the relationship that evolves between Madeline and Adelaide, the "other woman" who works as a torch singer. Adelaide works as a great seen it all dame who comes off as a femme fatale, but might be something more. Most of the book deals with how Madeline becomes fascinated and transformed by her.

The book exceeds in the quality the two authors share. Both often depicted New York City as both big and lonely. While I don't recall the book giving its setting a name, that feeling transfers here, from the cramped apartments the characters use between their night time excursions to the frayed glamour of the second tier night clubs Adelaide performs in. One of the reasons the relationship between the two women becomes so intense is that it is in a world where few connections are made.

Into The Night isn't for those looking for a perfect, smooth plot. There are jumps in the story line, particularly concerning Madeline finding Adelaide. Like many Woolrich tales, it is more concerned with dropping its protagonist into a nightmare. Nightmare's don't always make sense, but that doesn't make it feel less real. That is what Cornell Woolrich intended and what Lawrence Block upholds.


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