by Josh Vogt
Published in 1947, “In a Lonely Place” is something that I never thought I would read, but am so glad that a class ended up exposing me to it because it is one of the more unique things I’ve had the pleasure of reading. The premise is enticing, and it keeps you reading wondering what could possibly happen next, or how this all has to end.
The style of the book is Noir, which would normally follow a detective as he investigated a case and, inevitably, catches the murderer at the end. At least, that’s the broadest sense of this genre, and this book turns all of that on its head, critiquing the very genre it fits in. Instead of following the detective, you follow the killer himself, Dixon Steele (which is a great name) as he goes about his day to day life. This alone gives the book a completely unique feel that, at the time, was unprecedented and game changing.
On top of this interesting choice of perspective, it was also the first Noir story written by a woman, which changes the voice and tone of the book, giving it a whole new feel when compared to its predecessors. For example, rather than weak, sexualized women that sit around waiting on the men, you will find that the main two female characters are very intelligent and strong all on their own. In my own opinion, this enriches the story and creates three dimensional characters that are a hundred times more interesting than the stereotype for the genre. Ordinarily, there would be one girl, the femme fatale character, an overtly sexual and attractive woman who is put into the story to seduce the detective and often betray him towards the end of the novel. No such obvious character exists in this novel, turning the whole thing on its head and setting itself apart in a good way from the other novels of its kind.
The atmosphere of the book is enveloping, surrounding these well-written characters and pulling you in alongside them for the journey. It depicts post-war America after the Second World War, and it is a gloomy place, in the Los Angeles area, at least. The way in which the fog is described, as a place of safety where the protagonist can feel alone, unwatched, and unnoticed. It truly completes the discomfort you often feel while reading from this unique perspective, and this among other things artfully puts you in the head of someone who is not in their right mind. All in all, this book is well worth the read, whether you like mysteries, enjoy a riveting psychological exploration of human nature, or just really want to find a good book to read on the weekend, give “In A Lonely Place” a try and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.