What makes this post-World War II noir crime novel stand out is that it was written by a woman and the crime is solved by two sharp women. Although there are plenty of women mystery writers, it is less common to find women writing noir mysteries at that time. Reminiscent of The Killer Inside Me, In a Lonely Place tells the story of a serial killer of women from the point of view of the killer.
Dix Steele is an ex-pilot being supported by his uncle in Los Angeles while he pretends to write a novel. He is living in a posh apartment of an old Princeton friend, wearing his clothes and driving his car and telling everyone his friend is in Rio. About once a month he picks up a girl at a bus stop or some other lonely place and strangles her.
Dix decides to get in touch with an old friend from the military, Brub Nicholai, but is taken aback to find Brub is now a police detective. Brub has also married, and his wife Sylvia doesn’t like Dix.
Dix meets an attractive redhead, Laurel Gray, who lives in the apartment complex and is divorcing her wealthy husband. Soon they begin a torrid romance.
This novel was convincing in its depiction of a serial killer. Although we see things from Dix’s point of view, we are not drawn into his dilemmas as we are, say, for The Talented Mr. Ripley. We want him to be caught and worry about Laurel or about the next time he is going to find the need to kill.