Thursday, November 15, 2012

Forgotten Books: A Touch of Death by Charles Williams


A TOUCH OF DEATH






I spent a good share of last night reading Hard Case Crime's snappy edition of A Touch of Death by Charles Williams and I'll say what I've said before about this book. It likely has more plot turns than just about any suspense novel I can ever recall reading.

One of Charles Williams' amoral failed men narrate. He was briefly a football star. Now he's a busted real estate agent. No wonder he gets interested, after initial reluctance, in stealing an one hundred twenty thousand dollars that a bank president took from his own bank. The woman who convinces him to help her makes it sound simple. It's probably in this mansion. All you have to do is get in there and find it. The bank president's wife won't be home for two days. You'll have plenty of time.

Right. Well, we know better than that, don't we? Yes, he gets in but he finds he's not alone. The woman is there, beautiful beyond description, and drunk beyond belief. But so is a killer. After saving her life, failed star takes her to a cabin in the woods where he plans to persuade her to tell him where the money is.

That's the beginning. Everybody in this book is a professional liar. And the bank president's wife is the most fatale of femmes. She lies on virtually every page and occasionally almost gets them killed. That she knows where the money is is obvious. That she killed her husband is also obvious. But who is trying to kill her and why?

While Touch isn't as rich in characterization as most Williams its construction is so dazzling it doesn't matter for once. And as always there is the mordant undertow of all major Williams novels--failure, violence, oblivion.  Most Williams is now available on Otto Penzler's Mysterious Press e book site.

3 comments:

Keith said...

I loved this book, especially the ending. I've been on the lookout for Williams work ever since. I'm heading over to the Mysterious Press site right now. Thanks for the tip on that.

Dan said...

Williams recycled bits of this plot for his novel THE BIG BITE, both times with enjoyable results.

And did I read somewhere that he died a suicide?

Kelly Robinson said...

I recently started collecting all the Hard Cases. Can't wait to get to this one.