The Barnes & Noble Review
Evoking memories of James M. Cain's classic 1934 crime novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, this neo-pulp noir offering from Hard Case Crime revolves around the illicit relationship between a struggling 60-year-old Los Angeles screenwriter seeking inspiration in the rugged English countryside and the seductive farm wife with whom he becomes obsessed.
In desperate need of some kind of creative rebirth, aging writer Jack Stone decides to sell all his worldly possessions and leave sunny California to spend a few weeks in a remote English cottage. But the quiet little bed-and-breakfast that he finds on a remote sheep farm in Dorset brings with it a different kind of inspiration. While staying at Sheepheaven Farm, Stone befriends proprietor Robbie Barlow and his ten-year-old son, Terry -- and falls madly in love with Robbie's wife, Maggie, a former dancer who is anything but content with her dreary existence on the farm.
Not as explicit and hard-edged as other Hard Case Crime releases like Richard S. Prather's The Peddler or Lucky at Cards by Lawrence Block, Robbie's Wife is an introspective, almost poetic crime fiction work. Like its remote country setting, the story is simultaneously picturesque and poignant, filled with both the triumphant and the tragic. And although some devoted Hard Case Crime fans may be somewhat disillusioned by the lack of down-and-dirty felonious intrigues (blood-splattered gun fights, devious double crosses, etc.), Russell Hill's lyrical, angst-fueled writing style -- and particularly the bombshell of a plot twist at the novel's conclusion -- will make this a memorable read. Paul Goat Allen
The Denver Post
. . . formula is what these pulpy, noir thrillers are all about. It's the sudden twist of a knife or a turn around an unexpected corner that sets one hard-boiled crime novel apart from another, taking the breath away. Robbie's Wife never quite comes up with either. Hill does, however, do right when immersing the reader in the strangeness of England where we Americans are concerned, re-creating speech patterns dead-on, or the strangeness of trying to drive on the left side of the road, etc. And slight interludes written in screenplay format, mirroring Jack's thoughts or his plans, add a neat spin onto what would otherwise be a short, sharp, but slightly off-mark bit of fiction.
Dorman T. Shindler
Poet, novelist and Fulbright fellow Hill (Lucy Boomer) brings seductive intensity to this story of quiet desperation and the corrupting effects of obsession. Jack Stone, a 60-year-old Los Angeles screenwriter down on his luck and seeking inspiration, journeys to England for what he hopes will be a creative reawakening. Instead, all he finds is an endless supply of rain, pubs and bad food. Things get interesting when he stumbles upon Sheepheaven Farm, where Robbie Barlow keeps a bed and breakfast with his wife, Maggie, a tall woman with long auburn hair who moves like the dancer she used to be. Restless and magnetic, Maggie exudes sexually charged charm toward Jack, some 20 years her senior, even as she tends to cranky Robbie and their school-age son. As his stay wears on, Jack grows increasingly fixated and, when authorities threaten to slaughter the Sheepheaven herd in the face of an epidemic, he finds the inspiration not just to begin writing again but to make a move for Maggie. Those seeking a more action-packed Hard Case (such as Max Allan Collins's The Last Quarry) may be disappointed with Hill's deliberate pace, but he holds his own in the pulp genre, lending graceful writing and three-dimensional characters to some risky dalliances and gratifying last-act plot twists. (Mar.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Hill's (The Edge of the Earth) novel about obsession constantly threatens to become obsessive reading. Sixty-year-old L.A. writer Jack Stone relocates to England's rugged Dorset to jump-start his flagging writing career. He stops randomly at a bed-and-breakfast owned by a Cambridge-educated farmer and his dancer-turned-housewife partner. One night becomes two and then nights without number, as Jack finds himself increasingly obsessed with Maggie, who is all cheekbones and luxurious hair that she's in the habit of twisting tightly around her finger. The steamy and shifting relationships involving this ménage à trois will likely grab readers just as tightly, with the story's predictability only adding to the feeling that the conclusion is inevitable. The sense of familiarity is noticeably heightened by the novel's retro pulpish format festooned with a suitably garish cover. A book designed for curling up with on a winter evening, when only the shade of James M. Cain will do; for most public libraries.