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The expendable man by Dorothy B. Hughes
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The expendable man (original 1963; edition 1963)

by Dorothy B. Hughes

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1951160,388 (4.02)60
Member:DieFledermaus
Title:The expendable man
Authors:Dorothy B. Hughes
Info:New York : New York Review Books, 2012.
Collections:Your library, Ebooks, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:American, 20th Century, Mystery, NYRB

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The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes (1963)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
A very smart, cleverly written and well paced noir. Hughes places an interesting spin on the wrong man noir genre here, with a soaring critique and indictment of societal prejudices and injustices. ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
Dr. Hugh Densmore, a U.C.L.A. medical intern is on his way to his nieces wedding, when against his better judgement (and his creepy paranoia) he picks up a young girl hitch hiking in the dessert. It's not going to go well is it?

It may have been a trope even then, the innocent(?) man fighting to clear his name, but Hughes twists it then imbues it with quiet menace that simply and insidiously oozes of the page. You may see the girls fate but what Densmore actually fears, his paranoia and his nods to his past are kept hidden and then hook you in before.. well that would a spoiler. This tenseness is kept up pretty much throughout the entirety of the book. It’s gripping because you care and because of the stakes. It’s not a why or whodunit it’s a subversion of thought and touched with social commentary and excitement as the best crime novels are.

The trap might be sprung by his picking up the girl; they might swing about and come after him. Only when the car had disappeared from sight, did he relax and immediately feel the fool. It was surprising what old experiences remembered could do to a presumably educated, civilized man.

It's a shame I am not going to discuss that spoiler because this is where Hughes writing really shines. This is why you want to read the book, this tenacious look at a different very real kind of evil. Still if a review or intro does spoil it is still worth seeking out, certainly not a one trick pony.

I can't really fault it. Or rather its faults don't matter to me. Sometimes heavy handed; a repetitive under current of jealously say or slightly too much goodness to shadow the dark. Also the bad elements only occasional break out of stock character but I suspect this is probably intentional, the relentless repetitiveness of crimes is just one theme of the book.

Highly recommended to crime lovers. Hughes is an author I am going collect; I liked the patriotic [The Blackbirder] and I really enjoyed this! ( )
  clfisha | Aug 9, 2013 |
A tense page-turner, this book has a twist about 1/3 of the way through which is subtly done, fits well with what came before and changes the direction of the book. The whole book, even the parts where the characters are doing mundane things, is very suspenseful because you never know what’s going to happen. It opens with Hugh Densmore driving to Phoenix for his niece’s wedding. He’s a medical intern, poor and careful, but also from a comfortable, loving, supportive family with deep roots in Phoenix. In an out-of-character move, he picks up a young female hitchhiker. Hugh finds her hard to comprehend as she’s sly and manipulative and he can’t believe that her family could be so neglectful. He finally drops her off in Phoenix but has uncomfortable feelings that his good deed will come back to haunt him – he’s proven right when she turns up murdered. From then on, Hugh, though innocent, is constantly on the line between innocence and guilt – he wonders if he’s acting the way an innocent man would, tries to keep his family from discovering that he’s under suspicion, and when the investigators start to focus on him, he is forced to try to discover the truth. The writing is tight and nicely characterizes the thoughts of an accused but innocent man. Hughes also captures the heat and occasionally the claustrophobia of Phoenix as well as an America on the brink of change. Recommended. ( )
  DieFledermaus | Jan 1, 2013 |
Wow! I woke up in the middle of the night feeling I had to finish this book before I could go back to sleep! Hughes creates the tension felt by the protagonist, a young Los Angeles doctor driving to Phoenix for a family wedding, so well that I felt just as anxious as he did all the way through the book, starting at the very beginning in which his discomfort at picking up a young female hitchhiker might seem a little out of proportion. There is a reason, and it is the famous "surprise" of the book, which I will not reveal, although there is a lot I could say about it. Once in Phoenix, in the midst of a lovely family gathering and an introduction to a beautiful, poised, and intelligent young woman, he is still uneasy about the girl, and then finds out she has been killed. Soon, the police are after him, and it becomes up to him to find the real killer and prove his innocence. Throughout, Hughes masterfully creates the scene, the building tension, and the characters.

There was one thing that bothered me about this book, which was written in 1963, and I have to consider it an artifact of the times, but every single character in the book is utterly appalled and disgusted by the idea of abortion.
2 vote rebeccanyc | Jul 15, 2012 |
The Expendable Man is a expertly crafted crime noir novel. Hughes prose is spot on and the plot will keep the reader thoroughly engaged until the end. ( )
  knittingmomof3 | Jun 27, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy B. Hughesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moseley, WalterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Hugh Denismore, a young doctor driving his mother's Cadillac from Los Angeles to Phoenix, reluctantly picks up a runaway teenage girl hitchhiking.  When she is found dead a few days later, he is, for reasons unknown -- or are they? -- the first suspect.
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Hugh Densmore, a young intern, becomes obsessed with solving the murder of Iris, a young hitchhiker whom he turned away when she asked him for help.

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