by David Goodis

The type he was dealing with was the most dangerous and clever of them all. On the surface a soft-voiced innocence, an unembroidered sincerity. Beneath the surface a chess player who could do amazing things without board and chessmen.

Vanning is caught between the law and a murderous pack of thieves, all of whom are convinced he’s the only one who knows the location of $300,000 in money stolen from a Seattle bank.

Vanning sticks to his story that he doesn’t know where the money is, which means the thieves won’t leave him alone. The bizarre setup the thieves left him in paints him as a murderer, which means the police won’t leave him alone. Harried from all sides, Vanning has to discover the truth, catch a bullet, or spend the rest of his life in prison.

In his first two novels, Nightfall and Dark Passage, Goodis sets and maintains a frenetic pace, fleeter of foot than his fellow detective fiction contemporaries. These novels move, leaving out some of the intricate, plodding detail that serves to set up false conclusions in other books. As such, these are probably some of the most accessible of the classic detective fiction novels.

If you’ve yet to set foot into classic crime, David Goodis is an excellent place to start.

He had gone down far enough, too far. It was time to start climbing. It was time to stop the foolish grin and the relaxed submission to all the leering goblins.

4 stars

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