Monday, September 09, 2019

61. Laura by Vera Caspary

I wish I had this version.
I've been looking for Vera Caspary for a while, along with Dolores Hitchens and Dorothy Hughes, all 3 highly praised whose books are elusive.  I was mildly disappointed that this was the book of Caspary's that I found.  I have already seen the movie at least twice (and snippets of it many times more as it seemed to be quite often in rotation on AMC back in the day when cable was awesome).  I say mildly, because at least I found one of her books.

The story is about a woman named Laura, a girl from nowhere who ends up working for an advertising agency, living on Park Avenue and ending up dead on the floor in her front hallway, shot in the face.  This is a book of many narrators with varying degrees of reliability.  The first person whose perspective you read is Waldo Lydecker, overweight, erudite, cynical and worldly, a succesful columnist and Laura's mentor the big city.  The second is Mark MacPherson, hard-boiled working-class cop who starts to get to caught up in investigating the victim.  Finally, we have the words of Laura herself.  The fourth character is her fiancée, well-bred but feckless Shelby Carpenter.  He doesn't get a say. 

The mystery almost seems unimportant to the narrative.  I had guessed a lot of it by the end.  Laura is much more about the characters and particularly how the three men interact with and around Laura, alive and dead.  Their portrayals are pretty vicious and engaging, but it ultimately wraps itself up in traditional gender behaviours, which I felt undermines some of its potency.  It's still pretty interesting.  I suspect this book has been the subject of more than a few gender studies dissertations.  Class also plays a big role.  I definitely want to get my hands on her other books and will re-watch the movie again.

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