Sun 12 Feb 2017
by Susan Dunlap
SUZANNE BLANC – The Green Stone. Harper & Brothers, 1961. Detective Book Club, hardcover reprint, 3-in-1 edition. Lancer 73-533, paperback, 1966. Carroll & Graf, paperback, 1984.
The green stone is an emerald worth $1200, a fortune in the Mexican town of San Luis. It draws three strangers inexorably together, and it changes the lives of all three. Inspector Menendes, viewed with suspicion both because he is an educated Indian and because he is a policeman (presumed to be brutal and corrupt), must find the stolen gem in order to validate himself.
Jessie Prewitt, the little North American señora who accidentally comes into possession of the stone, must deal not only with increasing danger but also with refocusing her life after the sudden end of her marriage.
And Luis Perez, who has lifted himself from poverty by creating a job as the town guide, sees the emerald as the means to security, the escape from the ever-present threat of poverty in a society where one misstep is a tumble into destitution, and where there is no second chance.
The unfolding of the plot is simple. Three Indians from a village near San Luis murder a tourist couple to steal their money and, incidentally, the emerald ring. Clues vanish. Inspector Menendes is left with nothing to go on but his own intuition and his knowledge of the area where villagers scorn the Indians, Indians remain silent, both groups see the North Americans as legitimate sources of money, and everyone fears the police.
Suzanne Blanc’s strength is her sharp depiction of life in San Luis and of her characters as each struggles and changes. The Green Stone is a hauntingly sensitive novel.
Two of Blanc’s other novels are also set in Mexico: The Yellow Villa (1964) and The Rose Window (1967); a third, The Sea Troll (1969), takes place on board ship.
Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.
Additional Notes: The Green Stone was nominated for two Edgars — one for Best First Novel, which it won, and Best Novel. Inspector Menendes appeared in all three of Blanc’s novels taking place in Mexico.