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A Touch of Death (Hard Case Crime #17)

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  444 ratings  ·  60 reviews
It Began As a Burglary – And Ended As a Nightmare.

When Lee Scarborough came upon the brunette sunbathing topless in her back yard, getting involved in a heist was the last thing on his mind. But somehow that’s where he found himself – sneaking through a stranger’s house, on the hunt for $120,000 in embezzled bank funds.

It looked like an easy score. But one thing stood bet
Mass Market Paperback, Hard Case Crime #17, 250 pages
Published February 1st 2006 by Hard Case Crime (first published 1953)
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The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Long Goodbye by Raymond ChandlerFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond ChandlerThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Best Hardboiled PI & Noir
105th out of 499 books — 588 voters
Double Indemnity by James M. CainThe Killer Inside Me by Jim ThompsonThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. CainRed Harvest by Dashiell HammettA Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes
Alan Guthrie's 200 Noirs
25th out of 105 books — 14 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 973)
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Dan Schwent
When washed up football player Lee Scarborough gets hired to steal $120,000 from a banker's widow, how can he pass it up? Little does Lee know that other people have their sights set on the money and the widow herself. And Madelon Butler, the widow, is the most deadly of them all...

A Touch of Death has many of the things I look for in a crime novel. There are multiple double crosses, gunplay, and the tension of being on the run. Madelon Butler is by far the most interesting character in the nove
It's not necessarily a bad book, especially when considered as a product of its time but I was quite disappointed by Charles Williams' A Touch of Death to the point where I'm reconsidering my slavish devotion to the Hard Case imprint.

A down on his luck ex-football player gets sucked in to a scam to steal $120k from somebody who has already stolen it from a dead man who had stolen it from a bank. Sounds fun and convoluted but Williams lost me almost immediately as his naive protagonist immediatel
As with many noir novels, the less you know about the plot going in, the better. So let me describe my reading experience in abstract: This was my first Charles Williams novel, and when I first read it, I did not know anything about him or his work. To me, this was just another Hard Case Crime reprint. When I started the book, it did not seem like anything special. But then Williams got his claws into me, and the further I read, the deeper they sank. By the time I was done with the book, William ...more
Charles Williams's A Touch of Death is a tour de force. While none of the characters have a great deal of psychological depth, the two elements that I read noir fiction for--suspense and paranoia--are in full force here. Halfway through, once Williams has set up everything, the story moves forward like a ticking clock. The tension builds on each page, and doesn't let up until the last chapter. Readers who demand characters with detailed backstories and psychologically comprehensive motivations m ...more
Dave Russell
Are you a fan of Jorge Luis Borges? Because I am.

He once wrote a meditation on one of Zeno's paradoxes. Zeno set out to prove that motion is impossible. If motion were possible then Achilles, a fast runner, would have no problem catching up to a moving tortoise. Not so easy, according to Zeno. He points out Achilles would first have to reach the spot where the tortoise was, but by the time he did the tortoise would have moved forward. Achilles then would have to reach the new spot the tortoise
My fourth book by Charles Williams - my favorite crime fiction writer after Charles Willeford.

You have the tortured hero (just like in The Hot Spot and River Girl) who falls in with not one but two beautiful and devious women in a plot to recover some stolen money.

One of the things that separates Williams from other crime fiction writers is his attention to detail. Williams is quite knowledgeable about boats, fishing, sailing and water bodies in general (he used this knowledge to create authen
Erin (Paperback stash) *is juggle-reading*
A hard case I truly enjoyed....even though he was trying to get money an easy way, I dug the main character. The back of the book is right in describing the woman as one of the coldest out there. The ending reminds of me a surreal ending to a movie in the older days. A bizarre turnout but you couldn't help but be enthralled during the whole ride. Most of the time there was plenty of action going on, but during the moments when there wasn't - it felt like there was still much going on, primarily ...more
Mar 15, 2010 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: black widow noir
Shelves: hard-case-crime
Reminiscent of Edgar Ulmer's "Detour" in that it maintains a claustrophobic tension between a man and woman running from the law and not trusting each other. The leading man is an overbearing bully so he's got what's coming to him by the "femme fatale" of the story. In fact the lead guy is such a creep you'll find yourself rooting for Susie Mumble all through the book.
Noir should have loads of death AND sex, and Williams never disappoints.
A thrilling noir, where neither the hero (if such a term meaningfully can be applied to the protagonist) nor the reader has a clue what's really going on until the end. While not quite "literature," precisely, it's nevertheless a fantastic distillation of the style of crime novels from the 1930-1955 period -- the kind of story where all the women are femme fatales, all the lights are neon, and all the lines are punchlines. This is the type of novel so absorbing that it makes one (literally, in m ...more
Noir is a genre I've dabbled in, from the class 'The Big Sleep' to the fantasy Noir of Harry Dresden, it's conventions are well known to be. But where the Hard-Boiled detective genre is the most common of the genre, the crime thriller is it's junior cousin.

A Touch of Death has many of the classic Noir sentiments. A first person narrator. 'Dames' as dangerous as they are beautiful. An endless series of events that leave our 'Hero' lost, battered and at his wits edge.

The Story features around the
Top-notch '50s crime noir. Paced like a bullet, twisty as a pretzel, and utterly lacking in political correctness. Sure, it hits upon every noir cliche in existence; but even the most tired of cliches can be fun when done well, and here they are done very well indeed. Expect plenty in the way of femme fatales, double crosses, paranoia, and world-weary dialog worthy of classic Bogart. Not to mention a storyline that tightens like a hangman's noose.
For me, the most impressive thing about A TOUCH O
Đorđe Bajić
Veoma solidan krimić. Tvrd. Roman je prvi put izašao 1954. godine pod nazivom "Smućkaj sebi crvenokosu", kasnije je štampan kao "Dodir smrti" (prvobitni naslov je maštovitiji i prikladniji). Nije ovo remek, mada Vilijam definitivno zna šta radi. Vidi se da je roman nastao proširivanjem novele, nedostaje događaja. U kraćem obliku je, verujem, još ubitačniji.
The beginning is quite clever as ex-football star Lee Scarborough responds to an ad of someone looking to buy a car and completely by chance meets up with Diana James who sizes him up and recruits him the help her find $120,000 in stolen money. Williams also uses a clever plot device when about a quarter of the way through the novel Scarborough, who started out scheming with one femme-fatale, takes up with another. This switch adds an extra kick to an already fast moving storyline. Plenty of act ...more
I wanted a book to read to get my mind off of homework, so I picked this up after having gotten it at a used book store earlier this year. I tend to trust that the Hard Case Crime books will always be at least readable, and this was no exception. A Touch of Death was exciting and had some genuinely surprising plot twists, which isn't always the case in crime novels. The chapters are short, forcing the story along quickly, and the author wastes no time in getting things going. Plus, this novel ha ...more
Nov 12, 2007 Bruce rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: hard crime. noir, and mystery fans
Non-stop action, convincing characters, intriguing plot with a (literally) slam bang ending. Williams is one of the most underrated noir/hard crime authors around.
Rob at-52-Novels
"i really liked this book. williams did a great job. man on the run helping the damsel in disress with a great twist. nicely done."
Lexxi Kitty
The main character was vaguely like-able and vaguely unlikeable. Described both as a thugish meathead and a guy who had a certain amount of intelligence. Or, to put it another, smarter than his vulgar meathead appearance. Oh. Vulgar. People kept saying that. How vulgar Lee was. Those parts either not part of the conversations included in the book, or whatever it is that other people thought was vulgar just flew over my head.

And just what the heck is "long hair music" in 1953? I mean, I have an i
Jan 12, 2014 Mark added it
Cracking good mid-century hard-boiled noir story--so good it's hard to believe nobody's done a film adaptation. The again, this one is so archetypal, it's probably influenced dozens of books and movies since it hit the drugstore shelves. I'm giving n plot details since there are some wonderful twists and turns I don't want to spoil, but this is a well constructed and gripping tale of a sort-of re-robbery that also features what must be one of the best (or most wicked) femmes fatale in pulp ficti ...more
My favorite Charles Williams book!
"Μην εμπιστεύεσαι τις γυναίκες", εκδόσεις ΒΙΠΕΡ.

Πραγματικά αισθάνομαι τυχερός που βρήκα αυτό το βιβλίο στα ελληνικά, ενώ ήμουν σίγουρος ότι δεν είχε μεταφραστεί κανένα έργο του συγγραφέα. Τον Τσαρλς Ουίλιαμς τον γνώρισα στο goodreads, πετυχαίνοντας τον σε λίστες με τα καλύτερα νουάρ μυθιστορήματα. Δεν είναι και τόσο γνωστός σαν τον Τσάντλερ ή τον Τόμσον, αλλά το The Hot Spot και αυτό που μόλις διάβασα (κυκλοφορεί από την σειρά Hard Case Crime με τον τίτλο A Touch Of Death ενώ πρωτοκυκλοφόρησε με
This was one of the better hard case crime books that I've read. The story is about a washed up ex-football player who lives a life that he finds dreary and unsatisfying. When a woman tells him that thousands of dollars are hidden in the house of another woman who allegedly killed her husband, he quickly agrees to search the house and split the money with her.

Of course, nothing is that simple. The owner of the house, the femme fatale of the novel, is home. He rescues her from an attempted murder
Feb 26, 2012 Lars rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: crime
I didn't know Charles Williams before I read this book - unfortunately. 'A Touch of Death' is one of the better novels of the Hard Case Crime Series, featuring a clever, dark and stunning Femme Fatale which makes the life of our protagonist, a former and now broke football player, very complicated. In search of fast money, he tries to outsmart the Femme Fatale, but in the end has to realize that he can't compete with her. The novel is quite unusual, as nearly one half of it is some kind of chamb ...more
Broke ex-football player Lee gets sidetracked by a sunbathing brunette when he heads out to pawn his car. She spins him a tale about a recent heist performed by a bank executive; she knows for certain the exec was killed by his wife. So she has a proposition for Lee: sneak into the dead man's mansion, find the $120,000 he made off with, and they'll split it. Sounds easy, right? Turns out the dead man's wife Madelon was home... along with someone looking to kill her.

Thus begins Lee's descent int
Stephanie Patterson
So, I’m getting my hair done yesterday and I’m reading “A Touch of Death.” This is a Hard Case Crime book so the cover is somewhat provocative. I see several people in the salon look at the cover. There are a few wrinkled noses. What these folks don’t know is that I’m reading some very fine prose.
I love noir novels. The traditional mystery, no matter who wretched the crime, usually ends with justice being served. In noir mysteries the only certainty is that things will end very badly. The reade
Jakob Brønnum
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lots of GREAT stuff here, but lots of "huh, what?" stuff too. The second half is basically two people talking. And it's great stuff. However, I kept wondering why he didn't check back in at the apartment that is at the start of the book. And how did he get picked? Seemed random, but maybe I missed it.

For noir books 4*'s is my top.

And the end is deeee-LISH.
Jun 23, 2015 John rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: noir
Murder and greed with a side of madness in this quick, summer-friendly thriller. Unloveable but rememberable characters. "She went right on by. The white-gloved left hand, which was carrying the purse down beside her thigh, made a little gesture as she went by the window. Three of the fingers waved."
Very well done, exciting read. An ex-football player tells us how he met a girl & we follow him into a deadly mystery with a prize of a lot of money. The story unfolds bit, by logical bit, that completely swings it around, especially twisting us toward the end as all the pieces finally fall into place. I could not only follow his line of thought every step of the way, but felt I would probably do the same, feel the same. It was scary.

The story is a bit dated. Much of it depends on informatio
Tilak  Raj Kaushik
awesome ,suspense thriller with jaw dropping ending.I think this is the only book by Williams where crime pays and the convict got away with it.I felt so pity for the main lead.

What a great book! I have been reading the Hard Case Crime series for a while now and even though I have loved almost all of them so far, every now and then a true gem pops up. Such is the case with Charles Williams' "A Touch Of Death". An ex football player is down on his luck and ends up chasing after $12000 dollar, apparently stoked by a bank manager planning to leave his wife and run off with his lover. But that is only a very small tip of a huge iceberg of intrigue, suspense, mind games and ...more
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Charles Williams (1909–1975) was one of the preeminent authors of American crime fiction. Born in Texas, he dropped out of high school to enlist in the US Merchant Marine, serving for ten years before leaving to work in the electronics industry. At the end of World War II, Williams began writing fiction while living in San Francisco. The success of his backwoods noir Hill Girl (1951) allowed him t ...more
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