Jenni Lou's Reviews > Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
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Dec 05, 10

Read in October, 2009

The 1944 film version of James M. Cain‘s Double Indemnity is one of my all-time favorites and perhaps because I haven’t seen it in years is why this book is so refreshing to me. I was frequently surprised by the story’s twists and I found myself wondering what exactly was changed to make the film adaptation, though I am certain many changes were made. This novel just didn’t give me the sense of deja vu I was expecting. I must give it a rewatch some time.

One of the pleasures of reading this novel is how it is still relevant today. That is to say, it does not come off as dated and many other books published in its time–1935–do. For example, it examines the greed of the insurance business. How it will try to elude payment even in the absence of actual evidence of fraud. That is most certainly a practice that continues today. One only must look to insurance claims filed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for proof of that.

Cain’s characters are all interesting studies, each with understandable–if also unidentifiable–motivations. The protagonist, Walter Huff, though an accomplice to murder, is just an ordinary guy led into temptation by a femme fatale. But his motive for murder is two-fold. While he undoubtedly wants to rub the husband out to get to the wife, he also just wants to play a game of sorts. In no more than a page or two, Walter relates to the reader that he wants to test the system and he exacts a murder plot in an attempt to prove that his cunning mind and deep knowledge of his job will allow to get away with murder. Too often he has come across claims from people who didn’t know what he does about how insurance works and because of that, he believes he can be successful where the others have failed. It’s as if he were playing a simple game of cards for a modest bet. And what he wants to is to prove that the house does not always win.

In the end, it isn’t so much his morality that is his undoing as it is his affection for a rather unlikely love interest. And as the story reaches its climax he’ll find himself in danger for his role in the whole sordid mess and his paranoia surrounding it.

It is a rather short book, comparable to another of his novels I recently read, The Postman Always Rings Twice. I think I liked this one more. It felt somehow more immediate and urgent and engaging. Someday I will have to return to the library and check out Mildred Pierce which sounds like a fascinating examination of a twisted mother/daughter relationship and is about three times as long as these other two stories.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Brian Not wanting to argue, but for me the movie`s creaking a bit now, whereas the first film version of `Postman`s better than the source novel. Keep it Hard Boiled and a Happy New Year ! ;-0


Brian P.S., Re the first line above i should`ve added "Despite the three leads in `D.I.`being excellent". D`oh !


Brian P.P.S The set-up and denoument of `Dumbell Indemnity`, to use an episode title of `The Simpsons` differ from book to flic.


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