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The Criminal

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  577 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
A teenage girl is raped and murdered. A father turns his back on his son. A vicious press lord turns justice into a carnival. A terrified boy is railroaded. In the twisted world of Jim Thompson, everyone is guilty, and the worst crimes are unpunishable.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published January 4th 1993 by Vintage (first published 1953)
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Dan Schwent
A teenage girl is found raped and murdered and a boy who was known to have sex with her is the prime suspect. The newspaper turns the case into a circus and the town turns against the boy? Did he do it? And will it even matter when the dust settles?

This wasn't quite what I expected from old Mr. Happy, Jim Thompson. Yeah, it has the feel of a lot of Jim Thompson books in that all people are bastards but it wasn't quite as bleak as the others. Sure, the Talbert boy went through the wringer and his
...more
David
May 17, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noirboiled
The title of this low-key masterpiece (low key for Jim Thompson, anyway) is either highly ironic or an oblique reference to almost every character in the book (or, of course, maybe both). In the main, its title refers to Bob Talbert, a teenager accused of killing a girl after she seduces him. As the narrative progresses, however, the fate of our criminal (if criminal he be) becomes increasingly beside the point. The story is told by a series of first-person narrators, each representing less a pe ...more
Tfitoby
Apr 23, 2014 Tfitoby rated it liked it
Shelves: black-as-night
A Jim Thompson novella, a story of the effects a rape and murder has on several players involved with the case told from all points of view, except the dead girl, building a picture of a town and of events where nobody is really innocent of anything through shrewd observations of human behaviour. This is Thompson in 1953 writing about the death of the American dream, the death of the fallacy of small town innocence, the death of the traditional family, pretty much the death of everything except ...more
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Series of 1st person accounts of the major players surrounding a case of rape and murder of a teenage girl. Many of the narrations are savagely funny. All of them are dark confessions on the case and the outcome. Whatever truth means doesn't matter as much as getting over on the other guy does. The best and worst elements of Jim Thompson's writing style are displayed here. That's not a knock against the novel. It was likely written quickly, in a single draft with little editing. The best chapter ...more
David
Mar 16, 2013 David rated it liked it
THE CRIMINAL is a simple story, one of murder and guilt (or lack there of). It uses the Thompson signature of the unreliable narrator better than anyone else, and undermines/underpins a narrative by changing character at least half a dozen times throughout the course of the tale. What sets THE CRIMINAL apart from the majority of Thompson's work is how current it still is. The case is tried in the papers, guilt is attributed and reinforced by the moulding of public opinion. It's incredibly though ...more
Anders
Jun 28, 2012 Anders rated it really liked it
Short but bittersweet ...the building up to a sex crime was inevitable. After the deed happens the perspective changes, I have the sense Thompson makes the reader observe several viewpoints through various individuals eyes, simultaneously playing with ones sense of red thread, like a theatre play. Good read.
Rebecca McNutt
This was a gripping, fascinating story with an original plot, realistic characters and a lot of suspense alongside the story.
Christopher Roberts
This could almost be called a satire of a crime novel rather than a crime novel itself. Thompson portrays how a rape and murder becomes something that everybody has to get an angle on, and writes the book revolving in the first person through a number of characters points of view. Parts of it are brilliant, but it is very slight and very short.
Phil
Apr 07, 2014 Phil rated it it was ok
Growing up, I always wanted to like olives. But every time I put one in my mouth I winced and spat it out. For some reason, though, I wouldn't let things lie. Almost immediately I put another olive in my mouth. A grudging, perverse acceptance soon turned to outright fanaticism. And soon I was eating them directly out of the jar.

I think it's fair to say, too, that I've had to acquire a taste for Jim Thompson. Let's face it -- the man's uncompromising view ain't changing for you, so you'd better s
...more
Bobby
Jan 16, 2016 Bobby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fourteen year old girl is found raped murdered.

The prime suspect is a fourteen year old boy held in custody.

The potentially salacious story is buried a few pages into the local paper. Without much evidence to hold him, the boy appears to be on the verge of being let go. That is until the ominous newspaper publisher (who only appears on the other end of phone calls) wonders if the story can be drummed up a bit to be a front page item. After all, he's in the newspaper business. And the dominoe
...more
Mitch Duckworth
Nov 10, 2014 Mitch Duckworth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thompson is unfailingly enjoyable and The Criminal is no exception; mark it a 3.5-star rating from me and that's only because I'm not feeling charitable. I tend to prefer his straight ahead narratives (even when his protagonists are descending into madness and mayhem; maybe especially then) and here he imposes multiple points-of-view and multiple narrators divided into chapters, a structure of which I am not inordinately fond from the onset. But hey, he makes it work, even for a stickler such as ...more
Steven
This is one of the Thompson books I hadn’t read before so had a chance to come to it fresh and was a bit surprised as it is essentially a polemic. The title is almost entirely ironic. I say almost because we are never given a clear sense of whether the “criminal” in question, the teenaged Bob Talbert, committed the rape and murder of which he is accused. What is clear, though, is that all of the other narrators in the novel are criminals because they are guilty of lying, or abuse of power, or so ...more
Dominick
Mar 15, 2014 Dominick rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Thompson was well into his paperback original phase by this point, but literary ambition still looms in this fascinating but not fully successful multi-vocal novel. The story is narrated by several characters, each telling segment sof the story ,most far removed from the supposedly central action: the rape and murder of a nubile young nympho, apparently by her teenaged neighbor, whom she seduced. Thompson cheats somewhat by making him one of the narrators but not actually having him recound even ...more
Mariano Hortal
"El criminal" de Jim Thompson. Al lado de cualquier diccionario, bajo el término Novela negra, aparecerá como sinónimo el nombre de este coloso, eso seguro. En esta novela no tan conocida del norteamericano tenemos una típica trama de asesinato que le sirve como contexto para realizar una crítica feroz de todo lo que pilla: capitalismo, sindicatos, periodistas como tiburones, justicia corrupta, la sociedad.. y sobre todo el egoísmo de cada persona que antecede sus intereses a los de una persona ...more
D. B.
Jan 04, 2015 D. B. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nifty exercise in shifting points of view, The Criminal explores the ways in which the justice system and news media can conspire to damn an innocent person in the court of public opinion. The characters are all interesting, Thompson does a nice job at writing from their perspectives, and I found myself sympathizing with the innocent teenager at the heart of the story while also questioning his innocence.

The only drawbacks here are the abrupt ending (at first, I thought a chapter or two was mi
...more
Ian Hamilton
Ah, this had so much potential... It's not really a spoiler because the truth is established early on in the read; basically a young girl is raped and murdered, and a teenage boy is wrongly accused as the perpetrator. The story is told in first person POV-form, with the perspectives of everyone from the boy's parents to a skeptical newspaper reporter to the swayed by the masses district attorney. Conceptually, this should be a Jim Thompson surefire winner; rather it's too concise; the players ar ...more
George Nicholis
Aug 31, 2012 George Nicholis rated it really liked it
A young boy is accused of a crime he may or may not have committed. Each chapter told entirely from a different character's perspective, unraveling a new piece of the puzzle, it's hard to know which version of the story to believe. You're left with a story told by all nearly unreliable narrators, and never sure of the boy's guilt or innocence. But I think that's part of this book's genius. Pretty different from Thompson's other novels thematically, but unreliable narrators are his bread and butt ...more
Andy
Mar 26, 2008 Andy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: twin peaks fans
Shelves: pulp-fiction
The revolving POV (point-of-view) novel doesn't always work, but in the hands of Jim Thompson it's brilliant. The story of a wrongfully accused teenager for the rape-murder of the girl next door is told through everyone's increasingly more outrageous perspective as the book goes on, including an eyewitness account from a little black boy (President Abraham Lincoln Jones, who was probably fifty blocks away from the scene of the crime). Not one of Thompson's more major novels but brilliant in its ...more
Neil
Apr 23, 2010 Neil rated it really liked it
first few chapters are pretty awful --it's obvious jim thompson despises
common people, but he hops the first person perspective from character
to character, showing not one person in the small town who isn't corrupt.
would not be surprised if this was an inspiration for HBO's The Wire,
consciously or not.
Adam
Nov 15, 2016 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Certainly had its great moments, but didn't fully land for me. The narrative changing perspectives so frequently kept things lively, but it also kept me at a bit of a remove from the characters. The story itself has interesting things to say about media and criminality, but was ultimately a bit thin.
Phillip Frey
Aug 24, 2012 Phillip Frey rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes crime stories.
After having read "The Getaway," "The Killer Inside Me," "The Grifters," and "Pop. 1280," I'm now going through the rest of Jim Thompson's books. This one, "The Criminal," revolves around the rape and murder of a teenage girl in a small town. Thompson is a hardcore writer who never disappoints.
Nick Eilts
Oct 03, 2016 Nick Eilts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is brief, well-paced and fun to read. The rape/murder at the heart of the book is really just an incidental detail in the broader scope of an average American town in moral decrepitude. The book reads like a treatise on the 7 deadly sins and all manner of pettiness and their effects on the quotidian existence in modern America.
Ashley
Feb 11, 2015 Ashley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Great concept for a book, loved the style - personal accounts from a bunch of different people someway involved to the incident. I liked the "point" of the book, as well, but the ending was just way too abrupt. It doesn't leave you hanging necessarily, but it also doesn't feel fleshed out enough. Would have given it three or four stars otherwise.
Clint
Jul 30, 2013 Clint rated it it was amazing
The Criminal takes a great look at how shaky our versions of "truth" can become when the pressure is on. First-person narratives, from several characters involved in an investigation, give a startling look at what we're capable of when we're forced to "push back."
Brian Carr
Oct 04, 2012 Brian Carr rated it really liked it
The more I read Thompson, the more he becomes one of my heroes.

In this slim critique of the media's effect on public opinion, he leaps from narrator to narrator offering tid bits toward what becomes a murder mystery.

It's a phenomenal single sitting novel.
Connie
Jun 30, 2014 Connie rated it did not like it
I expected a different type of book. Although the book started out quite interesting, it fizzled for me. I don't want to read about the general corrupt nature of humans. I just simply wanted to read a murder mystery book. I couldn't wait to finish this book....because I was so bored by it :-(
Adam  McPhee
Union Victory Jones is a great name wasted on a character we never meet.

I think I'm going to take a break from Thompson for a while, though. He ties my stomach up in knots and then stomps on it.
C
Jan 12, 2015 C rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, like all Thompson, but kind of falls apart at the end.
Corey
Apr 03, 2013 Corey rated it really liked it
I love Thompson. Like Cain, like Patrick McGinley, he didn't write mysteries, exactly. He wrote gritty, sociological dramas wherein there was usually a crime committed.
Laura
Aug 22, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it
as always, he knows what he's doing. great little book
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Myers Thompson was a United States writer of novels, short stories and screenplays, largely in the hardboiled style of crime fiction.

Thompson wrote more than thirty novels, the majority of which were original paperback publications by pulp fiction houses, from the lat
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