By January 24, 2009 2 Comments Read More →

ODE TO JEN BAKER

I like when my opinions are validated.  Hopefully so does Jen Baker because in a review of Mr. White’s Confession by Robert Clark in the September 15, 2008, issue of Booklist, Baker wrote “this slow-burning stunner of a suspense novel came and went without much notice.”  That is a true statement despite the fact that Clark won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for writing the best mystery novel of the year. 

What we are both celebrating is the re-release of this title by Picador (9780312428129) in a trade paper edition.  Herbert White, an odd fellow, records the minutiae of his life in notebooks and romances Hollywood starlets from a distance. A loner who loves photography, he amuses himself by taking pictures of the “taxi dancers” from the Aragon Ballroom. Then, Charlene Mortensen, one of the girls, is found strangled. One month later, when Herbert’s special friend Ruby Fahey is found murdered, Lieutenant Wesley Horner arrests Herbert. It seems like an easy case for the police, until Horner realizes Herbert’s confession is not right. Herbert can only remember the distant past.

Baker says “Written in the taut, menacing style of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels, this is one of those thrillers we fear will not end well—but aren’t sure why.”  The link made to Highsmith is very accurate and I would add two more character based read alikes:  George Dawes Green’s The Caveman’s Valentine and Laurie King’s To Play the Fool. 

I discovered this wonderful work in 1998 when it was first published and included a reader’s guide to it in my book Read ‘Em Their Writes.  The publisher has a reader’s guide at http://www.readinggroupguides.com/guides_M/mr_whites_confession1.asp.  I think any book discussion group, whether it concentrates on crime fiction or not, will be challenged by this title. 

But be warned.  Baker says, and I agree, that “the brooding noir atmosphere and secretive, unlovable characters will keep fans up all night, scratchy eyes glued to the page.” 

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

2 Comments on "ODE TO JEN BAKER"

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  1. dwirght333@yahoo.com' David Wright says:

    I agree w/ both you & Jen, Gary – this is one of the first titles that springs to mind in that magical category of books that works equally well for folks who never go into the mystery section, and folks who never leave it.

    And that ENDING ~*! ’nuff said.

  2. jennifer.baker@spl.org' Jen Baker says:

    Thank you Gary and David!

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