Welp…you can check Cornell Woolrich’s name off the list of great Golden Age noir writers I have yet to read. It took me way too long.
What I found most interesting about The Black Angel was Woolrich’s style. I don’t know what I expected, perhaps something more hardboiled or with a benighted prose. But he doesn’t write like that, at least for this one. Woolrich is a smooth writer, not prone to overwriting or making his characters sound like Oxford-by-Brooklyn the way some of his contemporaries did (looking at you, Chandler and Hammett). It’s a noir tale that has an earthy feel to it, which I found refreshing.
The premise is noir as hell: a woman knows her husband did not murder his mistress but he’s arrested for it. So she goes “undercover” such as it is to exonerate him. As she does, she gets pulled in deeper and deeper to the New York underworld in ways she does not expect and is not ready for. But it exposes a side of her she does not expect. She becomes steeled in her resolve. Her evolution and reaction is what gives the book its strength.
Woolrich is great at building up the suspense. I didn’t know where the story was going from chapter-to-chapter and eagerly turned the pages in order to see. It builds up to its conclusion that, while perhaps a bit of a let down, fits in well with the noir themes. I didn’t need another writer’s catalogue to go through but I guess I’ll be making my way to his work more often.