Johnny's Reviews > Lemons Never Lie

Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark
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's review
Jul 01, 10

liked it
bookshelves: thriller
Read in June, 2010

Some mystery authors write police procedurals. Most of Donald Westlake’s books seem like criminal procedurals. In the course of reading a Westlake novel (or in this case, one of his Richard Stark novels), I’ve discovered so many variables that I never considered about pulling a criminal caper. Of course, in the Dortmunder novels, there is usually a comic twist on all of the planning and preparation. Those are black comedies in the classic sense. Lemons Never Lie also has some twists, but they aren’t necessarily humorous. The novel is dark, but it’s not black comedy in the sense of other Westlake novels and say, Carl Hiassen’s work.
At the same time, Lemons Never Lie isn’t a difficult read. It moves quickly in spite of some of the dark events which occur and doesn’t drag you down into the depths like some of James Ellroy’s books and the occasional Max Collins’ noir effort. Unlike many Hard Case Crime novels, this one doesn’t have you feeling that the protagonist is already drowning when he hits the whirlpool that sucks him down deeper. You sense that the protagonist is strong-willed and determined to make it work.
I suppose, deep down, I was also attracted to the idea of a protagonist who has an artistic bent and must engage in criminal activities to support his art. I suppose he is Utilitarian at heart as he “promotes” the artistic endeavor (the ends) with a means (armed robbery) that most of us would find unacceptable. It’s a fascinating premise that creates interesting dialogue and juxtaposition.
While much of Lemons Never Lie offers elements of predictability, it was quite an enjoyable experience and perfect (both in form factor, style, and number of pages) for reading on the go. These Hard Case Crime books are usually excellent purchases. I’ve only been disappointed twice in 20+ efforts. Imagine if my Cubs had a team batting average that high!
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