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The Cutie (Hard Case Crime #53)

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  687 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
Originally published in 1960 as The Mercenaries.


Mavis St. Paul had been a rich man’s mistress. Now she was a corpse. And every cop in New York City was hunting for the two-bit punk accused of putting a knife in her.

But the punk was innocent. He’d been set up to take the fall by some cutie who was too clever by half. My job? Find that c
Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 11th 2009 by Hard Case Crime (first published 1960)
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Nov 14, 2011 Greg rated it really liked it
I find the cover of this book a bit misleading. Blame it on the title though.

One, (me and um, Karen, who made a joke at my expense about the type of book I was reading) might think that the title refers to an attractive woman, like the one who is being signified by the cover artwork. Like, hey this is a book about an attractive woman who causes some kind of problem, sort of like a typical James M. Cain novel. Actually the title refers to someone who is doing something 'clever' but in a way that
Dan Schwent
Sep 10, 2010 Dan Schwent rated it really liked it
Billy-Billy Cantell wakes up from an H bender in a strange apartment next to a blonde that's been stabbed to death with the police outside. He runs to the nearest person that can help him, Clay, a man whose part of the same criminal organization. Clay goes looking for the cutie that set Cantell up. Unfortunately, the same cutie is trying to set Clay up. All the while, Clay struggles with trying to make a life with the woman he's living with. Can she handle being married to someone in the busines ...more
Jun 20, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-noir
"He needs somebody like me, who can kill when he has to, but who doesn't get to like the taste of blood.
I thought about that, & i wondered if it would ever be possible to explain it all to Ella. How to explain to her that i kill ONLY in cold blood, but that that doesn't make me cold-blooded? That i am emotionless only when emotion is dangerous, & that i am as emotional as the next man under normal circumstances."

Clay works for the 'organization'. When necessary he dispatches individual
Oct 23, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, but I rounded up. This is one of the best HCC books that I've read. The flawed hero is very well done as are his circumstances & the mystery. The writing is fast paced with just enough detail to really draw me in, but not so much as to slow the story down. The characters are well drawn & very believable. The ending was excellent. I'll be looking for other books by Westlake to read.
William Thomas
Oct 10, 2011 William Thomas rated it really liked it
Let's get a few things straight. Some things are not noir. Some things are better classified simply as pulp. Or crime.
Or thriller. If we were being true to form, we would be using the term 'hardboiled' when referring to the literature
that closely resembles film noir. Because Noir is a sub-genre of film that refers to a very specific style of post-WWII
film. Somehow, it has become a way to refer to any book that even remotely resembles the detective story prototype.
This just isn't right. I want t
Oct 31, 2014 Nigel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The Cutie is early Westlake, and the name has been inexplicably changed from The Mercenaries, perhaps as a fig-leaf justification (not that any was needed) for the lovely cover, which unashamedly bears no resemblance to anything in the book, where a red-headed in a short dress notably fails to turn up and start loading a gun while standing athwart an open briefcase stuffed with cash. Never apologise, never explain.

Clay is a highly-placed enforcer for the local crime organisation in New York. One
Nov 26, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
Not bad.

Writing was excellent

characters well drawn,

but for a noir story the whole

seemed fifty pages too long.

Too much pontificating in the middle.

Brought the pace to a crawl.

Had me checking the ceiling for spiders.

But for an early effort, the craftsmanship was well done.
Seizure Romero
Oct 18, 2009 Seizure Romero rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, library
Originally published as The Mercenaries. Probably one of the more unfortunate choices when it comes to renaming a book that really didn't need it in the first place. Also probably only rates two stars because it really was just ok, but it was a good mindless read right when I needed one, so hey. Bonus star.

Actually, the bonus star should probably go to the King County Library System for displaying it conspicuously on their "Paperback Picks" shelves that you have to walk past as you enter or lea
May 05, 2009 Kemper rated it really liked it
I really liked this one. May be a contender for my favorite HCC title so far. And it also may have my vote for favorite cover.

Mysteries where the criminals are acting as the detectives always appeal to me for some reason so I got a kick out of Clay's efforts to track down 'the cutie' who killed Mavis and framed Billy-Billy.

Kind of like Killing Castro with Block, you can tell that this is a superior writer doing some early work and discovering what works for him. Westlake kept this a hardboiled
More PI than hard hitting hit man – Clay, self proclaimed accident specialist and right hand man to a mob boss is tasked with tracking down a promising starlet’s murderer to take the heat of the organisation acquaintance and prime suspect Billy-Billy. The language is a testament to the era (written in 1960) with the quarry commonly referred to as the cutie, while Clay’s investigative prowess relies on more conventional approaches without the convenience of today’s mod cons. A familiar whodunit l ...more
Nov 16, 2014 David rated it liked it
Shelves: noirboiled
This mob whodunit would probably not have warranted a reprint by Hard Case Crime were it not Donald E. Westlake’s debut (or, more accurately, his debut under his own name). Narrated by George Clayton—known to his associates simply as Clay—The Mercenaries (reprinted by HCC as The Cutie, complete with cover art that has nothing whatsoever to do with the book) finds Westlake inching his way toward the world of Richard Stark and Parker with Clay’s recurring commentary about the necessity of good cri ...more
Oct 07, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early Westlake but fun as always. I ate up all his descriptions of New York circa 1960. A favorite passage:

I went on in. The living room as long and narrow, painted gray, and was so completely Greenwich Village in style that it looked more like a stage setting than an actual living room. It was one trite, standard bit after another. The piece of gray driftwood on the black, vaguely Japanese coffee table. The modern painting, looking like a broken stained-glass window, centered on one of the lon
Aug 08, 2014 Hans rated it really liked it
My darling wife picked this up for me while she was traveling. She knows me and knows that Westlake is one of my favorite authors. This is a well-done reissue by Hard Case Crime…though the cover image really has nothing to do with the actual story. The titular cutie isn't a cute woman, but someone who has pulled a fast one, setting up the wrong people and acting a little too cute…so they need to find the cutie.

Like most Westlake stories, he found a way to put his unique stamp on what is essentia
Mar 05, 2009 Tony rated it really liked it
Westlake, Donald E. THE CUTIE. (Orig. 1960; Reprint 2009). ****. Donald Westlake’s passing recently has left a big hole in the world of crime fiction. He was a master of dialog and a clever deviser of plots involving human foibles and weaknesses. This book from Hard Case Crime is a reprint of Westlake’s 1960 novel, originally titled, “The Mercenaries.” The hero of the novel is a man named Clay, who worked for the Syndicate in NYC. He was the right-hand man of the head of the operation. When some ...more
Benjamin Thomas
This is my first Westlake novel, and based on this, I will be seeking out more in the future (or those by his numerous other pen names, including Richard Stark).

The title is a double entendre. Yes there are a couple of nice looking girls here, typical of hard-boiled crime stories. But really it's slang for someone who is doing something 'clever' but in a way that some might find to be annoying. As in, "Don't get cute with me!" Here the plot involves a set up of a mob-tied junkie to take a murder
John Hood
Mar 13, 2009 John Hood rated it it was amazing
Bound Mar. 5, 2009 - Miami SunPost

The Cutie

Hard Case Crime Brings Back a Classic

By John Hood

The world already knows that Donald E. Westlake left behind at least one unpublished manuscript before he died back on New Year’s Eve, and if his life’s output is any indication, we’ve got at least a couple more of his books still to look forward to. Till Grand Central delivers his Get Real this summer, though, folks needing a fix would do wise to get with Hard Case Crime’s reprinting of the Grand Master’
Feb 28, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
This competent mystery tells the story of a mob enforcer who is roped into finding the killer of a rich man's mistress. Although he has acted as a hit man for the mob, and is able to turn off his emotions when it comes to killing, the author somehow keeps us concerned about what's going to happen to him. he is a flawed antihero. One plot of the book concerns the search for the culprit, who is hunting the main character even as the main character is hunting him, and the other plot concerns the ma ...more
Oct 29, 2014 Allison rated it really liked it
I usually don't want or expect much out of crime novels I find at thrift stores, but since this was a Hard Case Crime Reprint by Donald E. Westlake, I did, admittedly, expect The Cutie to be pretty good. I wasn't disappointed by it. The mystery in this novel is pretty good, but not as well done or important to the work as a whole as the way that the book examines how Clay, the protagonist, is psychologically affected by the work he does for gangsters. Still, it was exciting, needlessly hard-boil ...more
Mavis St. Paul has been murdered, and drug user Billy-Billy Cantell is the prime suspect, having been found at the scene with the weapon. Billy-Billy enlists the help of Clay, who works for gangster Ed Ganolese, to help him. The police end up getting involved, and Clay investigates to find out who the “cutie”, or the killer is.

"The Cutie" was orignally published as “The Mercenaries”. I don't know why I ordered this from the library as it is not something I would normally pick. I listened to thi
Jul 12, 2009 James rated it it was amazing
This is a first novel that doesn't read like a first novel. Everything you know and love about Donald Westlake is here, highly polished, just the right amount of style, a certain period charm, and . . . honestly, I dare you to try to just read the first chapter, and not the rest. Go on.

I'm willing to bet you're not going to stop, you're not going to want to stop, and you will just keep turning those pages, as I did, until you discover who "the cutie" is. And, for the record, "the cutie" is not a
Chrissie (is stuck in the 19th century)

Okay, to make it clear, when I think the book is a 3.5 but don't want to inflate the rating because I care for the book that much and for reasons entirely my own I'd still not give it a four, I click 4-stars but indicate it to be just a 3.5. But if I give a 3 rating to a 3.5, it means I don't care if the overall rating of the book goes down. This is a rather weird way of getting my personal vindication.

First Noir book (is Godfather considered a Noir fiction?) I read and enjoyed. Some minor is
Apr 20, 2014 Glenda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This 50-something year old novel worked well as a road trip audiobook. I haven't read a great number of caper novels, but I enjoyed this blast from the past - especially the ending.
Billy-Billy comes to Clay's place in the middle of the night. He says he woke up and was next to a dead woman. He doesn't know how he got there. He wants Clay to help him. But Clay is thinking someone set him and did a good job at it. Clay calls Ed and is told to keep Billy-Billy safe. Then the cops show up at Clay's place. He hides Billy and they search but Billy has taken off and Clay needs to find him. Ed wants Clay to figure out who killed the woman, Mavis St. Paul, and why they set Billy up ...more
Oct 09, 2014 Vivienne rated it liked it
Fun but forgettable book recommended by my old MFA supervisor, mostly because the subject matter is similar to my own work-in-progress (mob enforcer does a bit of sleuthing). The novel was beautifully structured, tightly-written, clever and fast-paced. I found Clay sympathetic, but too naive and nice to be believable, and I was baffled that he never killed anyone until right near the end. The setting of New York and characters were also forgettable, and rarely rose above cliches or anti-cliches ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Hal rated it liked it
This is classic tough-guy pulp fiction. It was first published in 1960 and titled "The Mercenaries." The fast talking protagonist reminds me of some Lawrence Block's first-person narrators, although he is not quite as glib.

The funniest aspect of the book is the cover drawing. It bares no relation to anything in the book. Some marketing guys had fun with this one, I imagine.

This is very, very light reading. I am always looking for new authors, but there wasn't enough in this novel to make me tr
The right-hand man and occasional left-hand(view spoiler) of a NYC mob boss investigates a murder.
Aug 08, 2012 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-europe
This manuscript was discovered, undated, after science-fiction superstar Zelazny's death. The protagonist, art dealer Ovid Wiley, resembles Zelazny's princes of Amber--he makes his own rules and doesn't care too much about what other people think. When a dead body is found in his New York gallery, Ovid doesn't want to admit to the police that the victim was once his accomplice in art theft. Bailed out by the CIA in return for a little favor, he's sent to Italy, where he meets Maria, the victim's ...more
Selaine Henriksen
Jun 15, 2013 Selaine Henriksen rated it liked it
You can see Parker evolving as you read this. Except here Westlake still believes his main character has to be a nice guy. The tension comes from the character liking his job and thinking he has it good and us, the reader, knowing that you can never relax with that kind of job.
I felt there was a missed opportunity at plot shenanigans, when he tells his woman how he got into the job. (Spoiler) I thought that would return and that she might be the dead girl's sister out for revenge, but no, she w
Nov 02, 2014 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book held my interest and I wanted to correctly guess the killer, but I didn't. I was close, but didn't quite get the right person. I found the edgy noir to be enjoyable.
Sheldon Wiebe
Apr 10, 2015 Sheldon Wiebe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never read a Donald E. Westlake novel that was less than extremely good. The Cutie is no exception.
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Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008) was one of the most prolific and talented authors of American crime fiction. He began his career in the late 1950's, churning out novels for pulp houses—often writing as many as four novels a year under various pseudonyms such as Richard Stark—but soon began publishing under his own name. His most well-known characters were John Dortmunder, an unlucky thief, and a ru ...more
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