Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"Laura" by Vera Caspary

It's so hard to talk about this story without giving away any of the plot twists.  This is me, doing my best.

Laura opens with NYC Detective Mark McPherson arriving at the home of Waldo Lydecker, a famous columnist and the close friend of Laura Hunt, who has just been murdered.  McPherson isn't usually a homicide detective -- he specializes in taking on corrupt businesses and organized crime, but he got stuck on this case by a spiteful superintendent.  He's a working-class guy and snobbish about the high-class people he's investigating, who in turn look down their noses at him.

Laura Hunt was a career girl, important in the advertising industry, and also a member of "good society" thanks to Waldo taking her under his wing.  She was engaged to Shelby Carpenter, who worked for the same advertising firm as she did, and who was something of an opportunist.  According to everyone McPherson interviews and investigates, everyone loved her.  No one had any motive for killing her.  She was beautiful, gracious, generous, kind, talented, and warm-hearted.  So much so, that McPherson begins to fall in love with her, even though she's gone.

This story was first released as a serial in Colliers magazine in 1942, then released in book form in 1943, made into a movie in 1944, and re-released as a book that same year too.  I have the 1944 edition, which I picked up at a library book sale for probably 50 cents years ago.  Mine doesn't have the cover I pictured here, it's a plain brown hardback.  I just looked it up on Abe Books and there's an identical one selling for $75, so that's pretty cool.  Not that I'd sell mine -- I love this story too much.  

(My copy)

But anyway!  Why do I love this story?  First, of course, it's a mystery, and I love those.  Second, it's got a forbidden love thing going on, with Mark in love with the memory of Laura.  Third, Mark McPherson.  Which is pretty much due to Dana Andrews in the role, because I saw the movie first.  (My equally spoiler-free review is here.)

(Dana Andrews as Mark McPherson)

Like I mentioned last week in my Inkling Explorations post, this book starts out being narrated by Waldo Lydecker.  Then it switches to other narrators, including Mark McPherson, which is my favorite part of the book.  Him trying to reason his way through falling in love with a dead person is just a wonderful bit of character development.  Love it!

Particularly Good Bits:

Although I spread butter lavishly on my brioches, I cling religiously to the belief that the substitution of saccharine for sugar in my coffee will make me slender and fascinating (p. 11.)

Whereas a detective may be a unique and even trustworthy friend, one must always remember that he has made a profession of curiosity (p. 46).

Clues to character are the only clues that add up to the solution of any but the crudest crime (p. 220).

I'm not reporting our actual language because, as I mentioned before, I haven't had a college education and I keep my writing clean (p. 223).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  a light PG-13 for murder, very vague allusions to sexual activity, and some mild curse words and several instances of taking the Lord's name in vain.


  1. Okay, I really want to read this. And....I just found it through our library extension/inter-library-ish arrangement! Hooray! Hopefully it'll get here promptly. :)

    1. Heidi, hooray for your library! I hope you get it soon :-)

  2. I had no clue this was originally a book! I've got to read it now! You know how much I love the movie! :)

    1. Lois, I didn't realize that either until I found this at the library book sale, flipped it open, and was like, "OH! This is the same Laura! Awesome!"

      I do like the movie a bit better, though.

  3. Read this just a few days ago, and then watched the movie right after - they go together so well. Mark's narration was definitely my favorite, probably because I could hear Dana in so many different places (plus, McPherson's thoughts and comments are just plain fun to read). One of the best books I've read in 2015. :)

    1. What a great pairing, Eva! I've been wanting to rewatch the movie now too since I finished rereading this. Isn't Mark lovely in the book too? All the narration definitely has the flavor of movie's dialog. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Wow! This looks like such a fun read! I'll have to check it out. :)

  5. Replies
    1. It is what I would consider the perfect summer read.


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