“How could a thing that was so good become so bad…how could a thing that was so right become so wrong?” These lines from Cornell Woolrich’s Rendezvous in Black set the tone for one of the darkest novels in the annals of crime fiction.
Johnny Marr is about to marry Dorothy, the love of his life since childhood. But on May 31, the night before the nuptials, Dorothy is killed by a liquor bottle errantly thrown from a passing airplane. Five men were in the plane at the time of her death. Five men are about to experience Johnny’s revenge. And May 31 will become a red-letter day for each of them. As red as blood.
But it’s not enough for Johnny to simply track the men down and murder them. He wants them to suffer the same mournful anguish that plagues him every day. His vengeance is always precisely timed, but his methods are unpredictably wild. No Woolrich character has ever gone to greater lengths to exact retribution. Johnny is willing to literally pursue his prey to the ends of the earth. His dogged determination is the stuff of nightmares. Woolrich paints this scenario in varying shades of grey and black — a model for his always bleak and pessimistic world-view.
Rendezvous in Black is the final entry in Cornell Woolrich’s “Black” series of noir-fueled novels. Unlike its predecessors, it’s driven by an obsession that borders on insanity. Read it at night — and taste the madness.
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