“That’s all it takes, one drop of fear, to curdle love into hate.”
So hardboiled you could chip a tooth on it, this is a nasty tale written with real elegance about a man succumbing to weakness. Weakness shows up for insurance man Walter Neff in the form of Phyllis Nirdlinger, on a routine call of his to renew her husband’s policy. Neff goes lousy for Phyllis quickly, and she’s the catalyst for his descent into murder, corruption, deceit, and a dozen other tasty menu items.
Like the flawless film by Wilder, there’s just nothing wrong with Cain’s work. He’s sharp, spare, carefully leading the reader through his intricate plots. If all he’d produced was this great twisty knot of a story, it’d be enough, but Cain delves into the dark psychology of his lead character – the weakness that rises to the surface of an ordinary-seeming man’s life.