I love this book. Varian Pike is a compelling private detective whose mind and heart you can get deep into as he goes about solving a murder. He is a loner, a veteran of World War II, and his memories of it are fresh. This is the fifties. Although the sensibility is a bit noir, the style is engaging and some passages made me laugh out loud. And some are thrillingly exact. The trumpet in a new Miles Davis album searches a “whole vocabulary of pain in some musical thesaurus.” The fifties culture is evoked with authenticity and not nostalgia. The war hovers in the background and reminds us when the fifties were. This is so engaging–the Northeast winter landscape, the brilliant dialog, the jazz track. Good stuff.
DeWitt creates a palpable portrait of America in the 1950s: what people drove and why, what music came from the car radio, what happens when the defroster breaks down, what school children learned, how memories of combat shaped the post-war lives of veterans, how McCarthyism became a pathology. This is not noir-as-atmosphere and local color. It’s noir as our shaping history.