Antonius Block's Reviews > Rendezvous in Black

Rendezvous in Black by Cornell Woolrich
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Sep 15, 2007

bookshelves: noir-fiction

On the surface, Rendezvous in Black might look like one of the coldest stories ever told. An ordinary young man meets an ordinary young woman every night outside of a drugstore window. One day he is a couple of minutes late, and by the time he arrives she has been horrendously killed. Completely devastated by the experience, the boy is unable to move on, waiting at the same place each night, eventually deciding to make ‘them’ feel what he feels. He finds a list of five passengers on a plane, men who we presume he believes were responsible (though until the very end we have no idea how or why). The book is divided into primarily five rendezvous, as he meticulously kills the most loved woman in each man’s life in a kind of poetic justice, once per year, always on May 31st, the day before the June in which he himself was supposed to marry.

What prevents it from being a cold novel are the perspectives from which Woolrich tells the story. Each rendezvous is not unlike a short story (which Woolrich was quite prolific in writing), in part because the perspective only fleetingly becomes that of the killer. Instead, each episode is told from the perspective of the man, or sometimes the woman, who suffers the most from his actions. Woolrich creates no blood lust within the reader (if anything, it’s an anti-revenge novel), but subjectively explores the emotions that overcome each victim, be it the uncompromising desire of a girl in love, the guilt that a married man carrying on an affair comes to grips with, or the intense fear of a blind woman who essentially sees and understands her fate.

Whenever the killer finishes one of his murders, he leaves a note to the man along the lines of, “Now you know what it feels like.” It’s not coldness. His mad revenge is actually a way of connecting, a way of evoking the same emotions within others – there’s a tenderness underlying it all that is beautifully rendered in the final reunion. And everyone, the killer and the victims, all have one thing in common: they are all the random victims of a fate that nightmarishly draws them together.
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