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Laura by Vera Caspary
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Laura

by Vera Caspary

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3341633,013 (4.01)2 / 74
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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Unlike many reviewers, I haven’t seen the famous Otto Preminger movie although I had heard of it so I went in blind and that’s the best way to experience this book because of an unexpected event that happens relatively early on. I won’t call it a twist because I don’t think it is, but it mirrors events in the book and we are deceived.

The story is set up by Waldo Lydecker, a scathingly witty writer who is Laura’s mentor and a fabulously fussy queen. If you don’t believe me, behold - “...I unscrewed the carnelian cap of the silver box in which I keep my saccharine tablets. Although I spread butter lavishly on my brioches, I cling religiously to the belief that the substitution of saccharine for sugar in coffee will make me slender and fascinating.”

In this scene he’s indulging Detective Mark McPherson who has been assigned to investigate Laura’s murder. Mark questions, Waldo answers, but Waldo seems to feel that he is the one controlling the conversation. They meet several times and the popular subject of their talk is Shelby Carpenter; Laura’s fiancee. Those three men and their question, lies and subterfuges make up the first part of the book. Then there’s Laura’s diary which I have to say had some of the best lines and passages about her relationship with Shelby.

“I had used him as women use men to complete the design of a full life, playing at love for the gratification of my vanity, wearing him proudly as a successful prostitute wears her silver foxes to tell the world she owns a man. Going on thirty and unmarried, I had become alarmed. Pretending to love him and playing the mother game, I bought him an extravagant cigarette case, fourteen-karat gold, as a man might buy his wife an orchid or a diamond to expiate infidelity.

And now that tragedy has wiped away all the glib excuses, I see that our love was as bare of real passion as the mating of two choice vegetables which are to be combined for the purpose of producing a profitable new item for the markets. It was like love in the movies; contrived and opportune. And now it was over.

Two strangers sat at opposite ends of the couch. We tried to find words that had the same meaning for both of us.”

It’s a pretty wonderful summation of the illusion of having it all. Laura is a successful career woman and already she is inadequate and incomplete. A man in her position, for example her fiance, wouldn’t be thought of the same way. His remaining a bachelor would make him seems sensible, desirable and mysterious. But when a woman does it, she’s made to feel small and defective.

That cigarette case is a pivotal prop in the story although it’s not used in a way many crime writers would use it. To say more would be to give away too much. In the end the manipulator becomes the manipulated and there’s a pretty nice take-down scene. Just prior there is a terrific moment where a seemingly kind and gentle character turns sinister in just a few paragraphs. It’s a light touch and it works beautifully to make you feel unease. Bravo! ( )
3 vote Bookmarque | Jul 29, 2016 |
Laura Hunt, a young socialite is gunned down in her own apartment one night just days before her planned wedding, causing her closest friend to despair, her fiancée to act squirrely, and the detective on the case to become obsessed with a woman he never knew in life.

After reading Vera Caspary's Bedelia last year, I knew it was just a matter of time before I got to Laura. While the two books are actually vastly different, I enjoyed them both and it was a close call saying which one I liked better. Unlike Bedelia, Laura is written from a variety of perspectives, which was particularly unique for a noir/thriller type book from the 1940s. Each person had a distinct voice; my only qualm with this was that the first narrator, Laura's friend and patron Waldo Lydecker, was the most difficult one to enjoy reading with his pretentious airs and affectations. Starting the book with his narration made it a bit more difficult to get into the novel at the outset. Once the first switch was made to Detective MacPherson's point of view, I found the book much easier to get into and was eager to keep reading to see what would happen next. The characterizations were all vivid and realistic (even admittedly Lydecker's), and this was a definite bonus in addition to the intriguing plot.

Despite being from the 1940s and having occasional pop culture references or slang words that were specific to that era, this book felt surprisingly fresh and modern. Laura's issues of trying to make a successful career and to fit in with a popular crowd are still applicable and relatable as is her questioning of her life choices, particularly regarding her romantic relationships with men. (An afterword in the book describes Caspary's writing style as "[making] murder a context in which both male and female characters resolve their own mysterious lives, as though the crime itself were a metaphor for the conundrum of relationships versus independence.") And the myriads of crime shows on TV right now make it abundantly clear that a noir murder mystery like this one is still entertaining. There are several twists in the plot and some points are kept intentionally vague to keep the reader guessing. The final reveal was a surprise to me, which I always consider a good thing in a mystery novel, but it was not a conclusion too outrageous to be plausible (another bonus).

All in all, I'd highly recommend this title for those who like a compelling read, enjoy a good detective story, or prefer strong female leads in their books. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jul 16, 2016 |
Although I knew the outcome from the movie of the same name, it was delightful reading this book. Told in different sections from the point of view of the three principals you get a feeling for each character. The author entwines a mystery in a romance and each works equally well. Never stripped down like the film noir it seems to be, you are left to revel in the language. And the name Waldo Lydecker is just delicious. Of the period but still interesting. ( )
  book58lover | Jan 17, 2015 |
this appeared first as a collier's serial. very clever. my last book jan 2014. ( )
  mahallett | Jan 31, 2014 |
i read this book on Feb 5, 1945, and said of it: "Not so good, then heard it over Lux Radio Theater tonight. Quite a coincidence." ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 3, 2013 |
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The city that Sunday morning was quiet.
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Sitting at my desk, pen in hand, I treasured the sense that among those millions, only I, Waldo Lydecker, was up and doing.
There are a lot of people who haven't got the brains for their college educations." The comment, while uttered honestly, was tinged faintly with the verdigris of envy. "The trouble is that they've been brought up with ideas of class and education so they can't relax and work in common jobs. There are plenty of fellows in these fancy offices who'd be a lot happier working in filling stations.
... the magnificence of my skeleton is hidden by the weight of my flesh.
Come, now, what of the girlfriend?" I pleaded.
He answered dryly: "I've had plenty in my life. I'm no angel."
"Ever loved one?"
"A doll in Washington Heights got a fox fur out of me. And I'm a Scotsman, Mr. Lydecker. So make what you want of it."
"In detective stories, there are two kinds, the hardboiled ones who are always drunk and talk out of the corners of their mouths and do it all by instinct; and the cold, dry, scientific kind who split hairs under a microscope."
"Which do you prefer?"
"Neither," she said. "I don't like people who make their livings out of spying and poking into people's lives. Detectives aren't heroes to me, they're detestable."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743400100, Paperback)

This is Laura's book, although when the story opens, she has been viciously murdered. Most of it is told by three men -- the three men who knew her best: gossip columnist Waldo Lydecker -- Laura was the only person he had ever loved; Shelby Carpenter, Laura's fiance, who knew more about her death than anyone suspected; and Detective Mark McPherson, whose duty was to reconstruct the life of the victim -- but not to the point where he fell in love with her. Here is the secret of Laura's death ... and her life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:04 -0400)

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