cover image The Bride Wore Black

The Bride Wore Black

Cornell Woolrich. Penzler, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61347-145-6

At the start of this somber crime novel from Woolrich (1903–1968), originally published in 1940, a woman named Julie buys a one-way ticket to Chicago at New York’s Grand Central Station, but she gets off at the first stop, still in Manhattan. After renting a room under an assumed name, she cases the apartment house of well-to-do Ken Bliss, whose engagement party she later crashes. Out on the apartment’s terrace, Julie tells Bliss that, though he doesn’t recognize her, he’d seen her once before, when he was in a car with four other men. Then she pushes him off the terrace to his death and disappears, leaving the police baffled as to her identity and motive. Julie dispatches a second man by poisoning and manages to stay one step ahead of the law as she murders other victims. The ending, with its devastating revelation of what’s behind the homicides, is as bleak as anything Woolrich ever wrote. Kudos to the American Mystery Classics series for making this top-notch noir available to a new audience. (Jan.)