DAY KEENE – Sleep with the Devil. Lion #204, paperback original, April 1954. Berkley D2024, paperback, 1960. Macfadden 50-414, paperback, 1968. Stark House Press, trade paperback, 3-in-1 edition with Wake Up to Murder and Joy House, April 2017.

   If you’re any kind of fan of noir fiction at all, you’re going to know exactly what kind of story this is as soon as you start reading it. In New York City, the protagonist of this story is known as Les Ferron; in the small upstate town of New Hope, he’s known as Paul Perrish.

   In Manhattan Ferron is the enforcer for a ex-cop now in the loan shark business; in New Hope, he’s a church-going Bible salesman who’s gotten himself engaged to the daughter of the patriarch of the town. What he has in mind is to kill his boss, dump the thousands of dollars stashed in his safe into a suitcase, let Les Ferron disappear, head out of town and marry the daughter, have fun with her for a while, and then abscond with whatever proceeds he can make off with from the father.

   As a reader of this kind of story many times before, you know that even though this sounds like a very good plan of action, something’s going to go wrong. What you don’t know is how and when, but when it does, boy howdy, does it ever.

   Potential problems develop along the way. The girl in New Hope has a former young swain who is very jealous, and in New York Ferron has a girl friend who would do anything for him (see the title) but is also not at all inclined to give him up lightly.

   In terms of the tale Keene tells, it’s a good one, but I think perhaps he let it develop a little too slowly. The real action doesn’t begin until about 100 pages of 130 in the Stark House edition. But as I suggested earlier, when things start falling apart for Ferron/Perrish, it’s like a force of nature that once started is impossible to stop.

   Culminating, I feel obliged to add, in two final paragraphs which will be among the most devastating you will ever read in all of noir fiction. I guarantee it.