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