Wednesday, October 02, 2019

68. The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes

I was disappointed by this novel.  I actually was under the impression that it was the first book of hers that I had read (I got her name confused in my mind with Dolores Hitchens, for whom I still search) and was thinking this may be the last of this author I read.  Then when I finished it, I read her bio and realized that I had read Ride the Pink Horse and The Expendable Man and found them both excellent.  The So Blue Marble is Hughes' first novel, so I can excuse its flaws and recognize her evolution as a writer.  Phew!

Now that my own confusion has been cleared up, let's go into the book itself.  It starts out great, in medias res as a woman is walking to a destination in Manhattan she is suddenly and subtly accosted by two attractive collegiate-looking young men who politely but firmly lead her to where she is going and seem to know her.  The uncertainty from the perspective of the woman (and the protagonist as we learn) is palpable and you really want to learn what is going on.  However, quite quickly you realize the protagonist and narrator herself is unreliable.  The location she is heading to is her ex-husband's apartment that he is lending her, but the way it is written all this is unecessarily shrouded in mystery.  The young men, who turn out to be sadistic upper-class twins (though one has dark hair and the other light), are looking for a marble that she claims not to know about.  She also claims in her thoughts not to know about it, but then a few chapters later, she does know about it actually.  Her motivation for cooperating with these sadists is poorly founded.  She is scared of them, which is fair, but doesn't tell her ex-husband who is some kind of journalist but also later we learn a tough guy working for an elite anti-spy department of the government, because she fears for him.  It's very contrived and leads to more unecessary murders all of which could have been prevented if she had just told everybody what was going on.  They also break into a bank super easily and the cops seem to be really bad at investigating murders.

The plot holes and unconvincing characterization undermined what was sometimes quite creepy, especially her strained family dynamics.  Overall, though, this felt forced to me and I am glad it was the third of her books that I read, otherwise she would have dropped low on my list if not off altogether.


Ron Smyth said...

This was the first book by Dorothy Hughes that I ever read, about forty years ago and I do not remember the details but I do remember finding it very suspenseful and enjoying it very much. Mind you, I was not a very discriminating reader back then.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Yes, it's not a bad book at all and the bad guys are quite freaky, sort of aristocrat jock psychopaths, like killer versions of the Winklevoss twins of Facebook origins fame. I can see how it would appeal when it first came out or for people early on in their mystery reading.