Jim Thompson’s classic noir thriller The Killer Inside Me was one I had never read, so I picked it up out of curiosity. Normally, I am not drawn to classic noir, even though I like a crime novel that is dark. This brief novel easily kept my attention, though.
Lou Ford is a deputy sheriff in a small Texas town. He projects the image of a jovial good guy, maybe even a little stupid, who continually spouts clichés. But he has actually been hiding his sociopathic tendencies for years.
Ford begins a sadomasochistic relationship with Joyce Lakeland, a prostitute. He sees a way to use his relationship with Joyce to get revenge for his brother’s death. As a teenager Ford sexually abused a little girl, and his foster brother Mike took the blame. After he got out of jail, Mike died in a construction accident, and Ford has blamed the local owner of the construction company for Mike’s death.
Ford and Joyce begin blackmailing the owner of the construction company in return for keeping his son’s affair with Joyce secret. Then Ford sees a way to take it all one step further. Of course, things don’t always go as planned.
As in reading Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels, a large part of the fascination of this disturbing book lies in wondering how Ford is going to get out of one fix after another. Thompson’s writing is deft and tight. You will be glued to the page, even if you don’t like noir.