History: Published in 1938.
Plot: Fred Hale comes to Brighton on assignment to anonymously distribute cards for a newspaper competition. The antihero of the novel, Pinkie Brown, is a teenage sociopath and up-and-coming gangster. Hale had betrayed the former leader of the gang Pinkie now controls. Ida Arnold, a kind-hearted and decent woman, is drawn into the action by a chance meeting with the terrified Hale, whom Pinkie murders in obscure circumstances shortly afterwards. Pinkie's attempts to cover his tracks lead to a chain of fresh crimes and to an ill-fated marriage to Rose, a waitress who unknowingly has the power to destroy his alibi. Ida pursues Pinkie relentlessly, in part to protect Rose from the deeply disturbed boy she has married.
Review: Pinkie is an excellent villain and the extent to which he will push the boundries in order to preserve his own hide is fascinating. Ida Arnold, an unlikely heroine, pursues the evil but failed gangster; she seeks his punishment, while trying to save from his influence the young woman, Rose, whom Pinkie has married to buy her silence. In these terms, with vivid but usually straightforward characters and well-drawn locations, and the shocking conclusion, Rose discovers Pinkie’s true nature.
Opening Line: “Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.”
Closing Line: “She walked rapidly in the thin June sunlight towards the worst horror of all.”
Quotes: “the boy stood and watched them, and as they came down the pool a second time he saw in the flood lit water his own image shiver at their stroke, the anrrow shoulders and the hollow breast, and he felt the brown pointed shoes slip on the splashed and shining tiles.”