The Pequod Review:
James M. Cain’s breakthrough success (realized at the fairly late age of 42) is a vivid and relentless noir about a love-struck pair’s plan to murder the woman’s husband. Frank Chambers is a drifter who stumbles into a California roadside diner and meets Cora: “Then I saw her…Except for the shape, she really wasn’t any raving beauty, but she had a sulky look to her, and her lips stuck out in a way that made me want to mash them in for her.”
Frank and Cora are deeply flawed; Frank is a violent and aimless ex-con, and Cora is an insecure Iowa beauty queen with a failed film career (“when I began to talk, up there on the screen, they knew me for what I was, and so did I. A cheap Des Moines trollop.”). The story follows their doomed love affair, driven by the universal passions of sex, love, violence, and money.