Today’s featured book is No Sale by Patrick Conrad.
A serial killer is loose in 1998 and taking his cues from old movies.
Why I chose this book:
Wow. Having just read this, I’m dumbfounded. Incredible. From the first page two things happened: I was pulled in and I was stumped. This is a grand mystery in the finest of forms, complicated and solid. The story jumps right in with the investigation into the death of American film noir professor Victor Cox’s wife. The prose is fast and clipped. Descriptions of the characters and their world are truly visual. “…touching up her lipstick in the reflection of her knife blade.” Or when a suspect asks, “Do I look like a serial killer?” then the other character’s reply, “You look too normal not to look like one.” After putting away the book, I still saw the characters and their world, hauntingly, like my own memories of an old movie. And why not? Conrad is one of Belgium’s most famous thriller writers and filmmakers. You can visualize why his works translate so easily to the screen (his previous novel “Limousine” is being made into a film with Kelsey Grammar, to be released this year). I loved the lines: When told that his wife is dead, the husband replies, “Shelley has been dead for years.” And later, “Once again there is a woman in the house, which smells of love and coffee.” I can feel that. It hits me viscerally. As a character says, “It’s not easy to strip naked before complete strangers,” but that’s exactly what these characters do. Point by point, their exterior coverings are removed showing their strengths and their foibles. “Shall I drop you home?” the detective asks his girlfriend (who is a hooker) when he has to leave on a call. “No,” she replies to him, “The weather’s fine. I’ll walk and maybe pull a few tricks.” I read that and thought that I shouldn’t find that so believable and yet, in context of the characters, every word Conrad writes, rings true. It is a mystery novel, true, but it is more than that. It is a psychological thriller. There is a love scene that is both erotic and as maturely touching as anything anyone could write in any genre. I felt the character – I felt myself being there and feeling what he was feeling – in every word. The plot goes back and forth. Just when I thought I knew the killer, I immediately began to doubt myself. It plays like a Hitchcock film itself. Looking deeper, it is a study of the fallibility of memory, even of one’s own life, and how even our own regrets and pains can be nothing more than our own fictionalizations. It is this underlying current that elevates it. Brilliantly translated from the Dutch by Jonathan Lynn (incidentally, this is Lynn’s first book translation and he has done a smashing job) this is a “must read.” “No Sale” is the winner of Belgium’s Diamanten Kogel (Diamond Bullet). It is only a matter of time before you will also see this one in theaters, as well. But I wouldn’t wait. Read the book from Bitter Lemon Press.
“For Victor Cox, a professor of film history, the Hollywood films noirs of the 1940s and 1950s are more real than his daily life. When his wife is found drowned, Cox is the first murder suspect. He falls in love with a student who looks like the 1920s film star Louise Brooks, but she disappears at a Belgian seaside resort. Smeared in lipstick in their hotel room are the words “No Sale,” the same words Elizabeth Taylor wrote on a mirror in Butterfield 8. Subsequently, a series of gruesome killings of young women, all modeled on violent deaths in films that he knows and loves, lead the police back to Cox, who starts to doubt his own sanity and innocence.
With its stylish writing, pointed references to cinema classics, and blend of horror and humor, this is a powerful psychological thriller. It won the Diamond Bullet Award, the Edgar Award for Belgium.”
Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!