THE WOMAN AT THE WINDOW (1944) is a good noir in what my friend Ross calls the One Mistake Dooms You category: Law professor Edward G. Robinson has a one-night flirtation with model Joan Bennett which turns deadly when her jealous boyfriend shows up. Robinson hides the body, then watches in horror as his friend District Attorney Raymond Massey begins pulling together the forensic evidence and cokcy blackmailer Dan Duryea tries to profit from the situation (Duryea, Robinson and Bennett appeared in 1945′s similar noir Scarlet Street). Very good up to the twist ending; good double bills would include Double Indemnity (where it’s Robinson who’s pulling together the evidence of murder in much the same fashion) and Seven Year Itch (both take place during a summer in New York while the wife and kids are on vacation)
BUNHEADS is Amy Sherman-Palladino’s follow-up to her successful TV series Gilmore Girls shooting but missing for some of the same flavor. The protagonist is a dancer with a floundering career who marries on impulse, moves to her new husband’s Texas town, loses him in a car accident—and figures with nowhere else to go, she might as well stay. Sherman-Palladino still has her flair for quirky dialog (“Are you going to tell me you’re out of Gorgonzola, because this sounds a lot like the Monty Python cheese-shop sketch.”) but after several episodes, this just isn’t clicking for me. It may be because Michelle is a newcomer in town where Lorelei Gilmore was firmly enmeshed in her community, or that Michelle really has no particular drive whereas Lorelei was fueled by her love for her daughter and her need to deal, reluctantly with her parents. Either way, I’ll pass on the rest.
THE FAMILY TRADE: Book One of the Merchant Princes by Charles Stross is a competently written but by-the-numbers parallel-world story in which a woman of Mysterious Past learns she’s actually part of an alt.world merchant clan which intends to exploit her in their internecine struggles whether she likes it or not. Way too routine for me, with nothing fresh (though that didn’t stop them publishing a half-dozen sequels).
CASE OF THE CONSTANT SUICIDES by John Dickson Carr has series protagonist Gideon Fell investigate a Scots laird’s locked-room death (“We know it can’t be murder, but you’re saying it can’t be suicide either?”), only to discover several more suspicious suicides in the neighborhood. Like the one other Fell mystery I’ve read, the mystery stems in part from the villain’s plan going wrong (which indirectly answers Raymond Chandler’s complaint about mysteries where ridiculously elaborate schemes work perfectly); unfortunately, the story is still too routine to hold my interest. The supporting cast, including feuding academics and a crotchety housekeeper were a lot more fun.
WITH FATE CONSPIRE takes Marie Brennnan’s Onyx Court series into the Victorian age, where the underground railroad has spread iron so far through the faerie’s underground realm that the court is now an anarchic ruin controlled by the crimelords of the Goblin Market. The characters caught up in this include an Irish girl trying to save her old sweetheart from the fae, an amnesiac shapeshifter, a desperate changeling and the mortal Prince of the court struggling to hold it together—while a conniving goblin comes up with a solution to the railroad problem that will put him on top of the heap. Very good (as someone who writes a lot of historical fantasy shorts, I’m impressed how high Brennan raises the bar)—given the ending, I look forward to seeing the inevitable 20th-century follow-up.