Skip to main content

Top mysteries challenge review: Laura by Vera Caspary

Year of publication: 1943
Genre: Mystery
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: New York, USA; 1930’s
Place on the list(s): MWA #44

A young woman is found with her face blown away by a shotgun blast and is identified as the owner of the apartment where she was found. However, shortly afterwards the murder investigation takes a new turn when the real owner of the apartment turns up very much alive.

This is an interesting novel mostly for the way it is set up. The points of view shift to show how the main characters saw things, making it an interesting example of the use of one or more unreliable narrators. Other than that, it is a mediocre mystery, and more a study of how a strong, independent woman can arouse strong feelings and reactions in men.

The story is well put together, but the killer’s identity is glaringly obvious from early on and this does not, in my opinion make Laura a good mystery, only a study of stereotypes strung together with some fairly good writing and regrettably predictable plot elements.

The worst part is the big cliché, which can not be excused by saying that it was not a cliché when the book was written, because it was well-established by that time. It's one that annoys me no end, twinned with another cliché that also annoys me, which is why, although I think the stock plot elements and stock characters are well utilised, I can't give the book more than 2 stars. Just to be clear: I am not referring to the much-mentioned cliché ending that I detest, which we have been mercifully spared here, but something else I don't remember mentioning before.

I have a sneaky suspicion that the reason this book made it onto the MWA’s list is that it was the movie that the voters remembered and not the novel. I have this suspicion because Christie's Witness for the Prosecution is known to have made it onto the same list for a similar reason. It isn't really eligible because there never was a Christie novel of that title – the original is a short story and there has been a play and a movie (both of which end differently from the short story), but all three are fondly remembered and appreciated enough to make it onto the list. If the voters made one such mistake, why not two? The film version of Laura is a classic of its kind and from all my research seems to be considered superior to the book. I haven't been able to judge for myself yet, but if I get my hands on the movie, I will certainly watch it and possibly post an update.

Rating: 2 stars.

Books left in challenge: 97.
Awards and nominations: None that I know of.


tina said…
Hmmm, that was interesting. Looks like somethings will always remain mystery.

I myself have been trying to solve the mystery of this legend for a while now. Could not understand much though.

Let me know in case you get to understand the mystery of the Old Hound and the Legend

By the way, good writing style. I'd love to read more on similar topics

Popular posts from this blog

How to make a simple origami bookmark

Here are some instructions on how to make a simple origami (paper folding) bookmark:

Take a square of paper. It can be patterned origami paper, gift paper or even office paper, just as long as it’s easy to fold. The square should not be much bigger than 10 cm/4 inches across, unless you intend to use the mark for a big book. The images show what the paper should look like after you follow each step of the instructions. The two sides of the paper are shown in different colours to make things easier, and the edges and fold lines are shown as black lines.

Fold the paper in half diagonally (corner to corner), and then unfold. Repeat with the other two corners. This is to find the middle and to make the rest of the folding easier. If the paper is thick or stiff it can help to reverse the folds.

Fold three of the corners in so that they meet in the middle. You now have a piece of paper resembling an open envelope. For the next two steps, ignore the flap.

Fold the square diagonally in two. You…

Reading report for January 2014

Here it is, finally: the reading report for January. (February‘s report is in the works: I have it entered into Excel and I just need to transfer it into Word, edit the layout and write the preface. It will either take a couple of days or a couple of months).

I finished 26 books in January, although admittedly a number of them were novellas. As I mentioned in my previous post, I delved into a new(ish) type of genre: gay (or M/M) romance. I found everything from genuinely sweet romance to hardcore BDSM, in sub-genres like fantasy, suspense and mystery and even a quartet of entertaining (and unlikely) rock star romances. Other books I read in January include the highly enjoyable memoir of cooking doyenne Julia Child, two straight romances, and Jennifer Worth‘s trilogy of memoirs about her experiences as a midwife in a London slum in the 1950s. I also watched the first season of the TV series based on these books and may (I say 'may') write something about this when I have finis…

List love: A growing list of recommended books with elderly protagonists or significant elderly characters

I think it's about time I posted this, as I have been working on it for a couple of months.
I feel there isn’t enough fiction written about the elderly, or at least about the elderly as protagonists. The elderly in fiction tend to be supporting characters, often wise elders (such as  Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books) or cranky old neighbour types (e.g. the faculty of Unseen University in the Discworld series) or helpless oldsters (any number of books, especially children’s books) for the protagonist to either help or abuse (depending on whether they’re a hero or not).
Terry Pratchett has written several of my favourite elderly protagonists and they always kick ass in one way or another, so you will see several of his books on this list, either as listed items or ‘also’ mentions.
Without further ado: Here is a list of books with elderly protagonists or significant, important elderly characters. I leave it up to you to decide if you’re interested or not, but I certainly enjoyed…