The opening of this noir book is so wrapped up in 1940s publishing jargon that I thought I was reading a weird science fiction book at first. We begin in a giant highrise where our first (of several) narrators in hiding in the clock tower of the building. He’s witnessed a murder (the owner of the publishing firm did it) and he’s hiding. The rest of the book takes place along several lines of narration as the publisher tries to figure out who saw it, the action unfolds as other people are tasked in finding the witness, and our first, and most prominent narrator tells us the background we need to know.
It’s a short novel, and a mostly satisfying one. It’s a little confusing of course, and does that thing that amazes me, convinces me it’s much older at times and much more contemporary at other times. When I think about mysteries with multiple narrators, you can’t go wrong with the kind of OG of all of them (maybe not the first, maybe not the best, but the best combination of the two) Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone. And of course many other novels before this one have put multiple narrators in the same book — Faulkner especially perfected it.
The aesthetics of this novel though did pinpoint something for me: that I have seen the Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy so many times, and while it clearly borrows a lot from Harold Lloyd and Ernst Lubitsch movies, I think the film version of this made its way into that movie. Regardless, I think the complex narrative structure in a genre novel does bring something nice and wonderful to that set of readers who might not otherwise have been exposed.