November 3, 2015

The Eyes Have It: a review of Lawrence Block's "The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes"

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes
Lawrence Block
Hard Case Crime (2015)
240 pages
Available at

If there is such a thing as vintage Block, then this is it.

A private eye, a femme fatale, and the offer of money in exchange for murder. Oh yeah ... vintage.

Setting the book in Florida, Block immediately had me hooked with my imagination running wild with all the insane shenanigans that may take place in the notoriously crazy Sunshine State. As it stands, Block opted not for face-eating maniacs fueled by bath salts and Red Bull, instead going with something a little more old school: a wife looking to hire someone to kill her husband. You know, that old chestnut.

Doak Miller is living a fairly low-key lifestyle down in Florida after a quarter-century or so in New York City law enforcement. He has a decent pension, lives within his means, and makes the occasional bit of extra cash off the local sheriff when some private-eye jobs come up. The most recent has him posing as a hitman for a meetup with a wife reportedly out to kill her rich husband. But when Doak lays eyes on her, he goes off script, and instead of letting her incriminate herself, convinces her to call it off and subsequently begins an illicit affair with her.

Where I think the novel defies reader expectations, at least for some, comes from Block's nuanced approach to a no-nonsense character like Doak. As soon as the prospect of sex, money, and murder come under his nose, something inside Doak changes. The otherwise straight-laced fella has some demons sleeping inside him that stir when things take a turn. And while things look like they're headed on a one-way track, it's the sights along that long road to ruin that offer a disturbing insight to just what makes Doak tick. And the ending ... needs to be read to be appreciated.

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