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A Touch of Death (Hard Case Crime #17)

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  561 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
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 between him and the money: the beautiful and deadly

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Published 1954 by Gold Medal (first published 1953)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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
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Jack Tripper
This was one of the fastest-paced and most intense novels I've ever read, and I'm a little surprised at the somewhat mixed reviews here. I was never less than fully absorbed in this tale of a former college football star who plans to steal $120,000 in "easy money" from a vacant house, but gets a lot more than he bargained in his newly-met, ultra-conniving female partner, who, unfortunately for him, is the mastermind behind the plan.

The action here never lets up, and it's impossible to turn away
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Tfitoby
Sep 17, 2013 Tfitoby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
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
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David
Mar 04, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
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
Adam
Sep 01, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
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
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Carla Remy
Aug 08, 2016 Carla Remy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This fiction does not have the most likable of characters, but at least it's not obvious. The extreme readability of Charles Williams books is met by the phenomenal plotting.
Cbj
Aug 31, 2015 Cbj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder*
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
Andy
Mar 15, 2010 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sam Reaves
Sep 20, 2016 Sam Reaves rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charles Williams was a prolific pulp/noir writer in the 50's and 60's. With a background as a merchant sailor, he produced a number of sailing thrillers, of which Dead Calm is the best known, but he also wrote a number of tales set in hot, dusty nowhere towns in the South, in which alienated loners grab a chance for a score that will allow them to escape.
In this one, a washed-up former football star is ensnared by not one but two femmes fatales, who are contending over a hundred and twenty grand
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Suvi
Noir. I can always trust it when I feel like reading something where it's guaranteed that things go horribly wrong or someone goes apeshit. Williams has been an unknown to me until now, but if this really isn't his strongest novels, I'm going to be in paradise later.

A Touch of Death smells like fear, sweat, powder, lipstick, and sex, and it's the colour of sharp scissors in the evening light. Williams's prose is to the point, yet a sizzling atmosphere of passion and suppressed rage are looming s
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Chris
Jan 07, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Leslie
A streamlined bullet of a book. A has-been football player gets involved in a scheme to find and claim stolen money. You know it can't go well. This reminded me quite a bit of a terrific movie, Body Heat. Just as sexy, and just as perverse.
Rob at-52-Novels
Aug 01, 2007 Rob at-52-Novels rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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."
Bruce
Nov 12, 2007 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Benjamin
Dec 17, 2010 Benjamin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-case-crime
My favorite Charles Williams book!
Sawyer
Nov 24, 2016 Sawyer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the book enough to read more of the author. He has a style that reminds me a bit of Raymond Chandler. The way the story twists, turns and then returns is Chandleresque. Like Chandler, the story is densely packed in time. The characters spend a lot of time thinking, and plotting. However, it isn't as rich as a Chandler novel somehow. The shine isn't as bright. The writing is not as beautiful. The characters don't have multiple dimensions. I want to read more Williams books to see if he ca ...more
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
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George
Mar 14, 2015 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
"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
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Andy
Dec 10, 2015 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second novel by Charles Williams I've read. The first was "The Hot Spot" which was very impressive for it's small town rural noir feel. This book is impressive as well, although I would rate it lower.

The story follows Lee Scarborough who accepts a heist job from a woman which sounds simple enough. She wants him to break into the mansion of Madelon Butler whose husband was vice president of a bank and recently disappeared with $120,000. He's shocked to find Mrs. Butler inside, and sav
...more
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
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Sarah
Dec 01, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Chris
May 21, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
John
Jan 01, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Lars
Feb 26, 2012 Lars rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Wise_owl
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
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Mark
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
Steven
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
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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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