Madhulika Liddle's Reviews > The Big Clock

The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing
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really liked it

Kenneth Fearing’s The Big Clock is narrated by several people, with some getting only one brief chapter, while the protagonist, George Stroud, narrates most of the story. George, who is married to Georgette, is the father of six-year old Georgia (lots of Georges around here, especially as Georgia refers to her parents as ‘George’).

George (the father) works in Crimeways, a journal devoted to crime reporting. Crimeways is part of a large group of publications and journals owned by Earl Janoth, with his very canny friend and partner Hagen helping Janoth at every step. In the scene where the book begins, George first meets Pauline Delos, Earl Janoth’s very glamorous girlfriend, and shortly after, begins an affair with her.

But Pauline gets murdered, and George realizes the implications of this. Not just because he may have seen the murderer, but because the murderer may have seen him (though George is pretty certain that his face, at any rate, was not lit by a street lamp). And if the murderer knows that George was the eye witness, it might make things very difficult for George…

When George gets given the task of finding out the identity of the man who was with Pauline on her last evening alive, this basically means that he will be out searching for himself. And making sure he doesn’t deliver results—though not letting on that that’s what’s happening.

It took me a while to get into this book: the first few chapters were a little dull, with too much about journalism and business and whatnot. Then, suddenly, it took a turn I hadn’t foreseen and then it became an engrossing and throughly satisfying read. The pace is superb, the plot fits together very well, and the ‘switching narrators’ technique serves to heighten the suspense: will George win, will he not? What will happen? This isn’t a whodunnit, it’s a cat and mouse game in which one cannot really tell who is the cat and who the mouse. Or if both are the same, actually.

That said, in some ways this book shows its age and reflects the conditioning of its author. There are some snide remarks about homosexuality, the artist in the narrative is woefully stereotypical (she has a raucous laugh, a brood of illegitimate children, and a history of living in with men who destroy her paintings). George himself, while the protagonist, is far from the ideal man: a serial adulterer, and one whose wife knows it too (which made me dislike Georgette too, especially since no explanation is given for why she’s been forgiving and/or overlooking George’s infidelities all these years. I can guess why, but I would liked to have had it mentioned).

Despite that, though, a solid entertainer. And I suppose, given the plot and the genre, the flaws I’ve pointed out are really par for the course. You can’t have a noir in which everybody (including the hero) isn’t at least a little flawed.
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Reading Progress

March 21, 2019 – Started Reading
March 21, 2019 – Finished Reading
March 22, 2019 – Shelved

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