Merrimon Book Reviews

New York City, ca. 1932

Vincent "The Chin" Gigante:
New York mobster who headed the Genovese crime family.
Photo: Phil Stanziola, World Telegram staff photographer, 1957.
Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.

Book cover of the first 1960 publication under the title of The Mercenaries

From Merrimon Book Reviews
The Cutie
The Cutie by Donald E.Westlake
by Donald E.Westlake

Chilling to the last line!

Clay and his girlfriend Ella are sleeping when Billy-Billy Cantrell, a heroin junkie, comes with a desperate plea for help.   Found next to the dead body of a woman after a drug-induced stupor that leaves him with no memory of the night in question, Billy-Billy needs help and fast.  The police are hot on his trail but he is innocent.  In normal circumstances, Clay would have no qualms about taking care of business and disposing of Billy-Billy, especially if he brings trouble alongside him.  A job is a job.  Clay just follows orders from Ed Ganolese, the head of the organization.  What Ed wants, Clay does and does efficiently.  This time, however, Ganolese orders him to find the cutie who is bringing the heat closer to home and messing with the organization.  Mavis St.Paul was the mistress of a rich man, a man who thinks more about his personal possessions than love.  Was Mavis just another one of his possessions?  As Clay investigates the shadowy past of Mavis St. Paul and her mercenary attitude towards men, the cutie seems one step ahead of him.  The case has his girlfriend asking questions about his job and turning Clay in all directions.  Can Clay find the killer before the killer finds him and just get himself and the organization back to the normal operating procedure?

Originally published in 1960 under the title THE MERCENARIES, Hard Case Crime pays tribute to the master of crime fiction and three time Edgar award winner with this reissue of his earliest novel published under his own name.  What a wonderful tribute for his fans to be released so soon after Donald E. Westlake's death on Dec. 31, 2008!  Like the earlier title, the new title plays with the connection between the victim and the killer although the new title more accurately describes the tone and the genre of the book. 

THE CUTIE is a must read for Westlake and hard-boiled crime fiction fans!  Dark and twisted, THE CUTIE has several plot twists that will leave the reader stunned until the very last chilling line.  Memorable characters populate this story, giving the reader a feel for the tough, gritty side of New York City as well as the just as chilling home of Ernest Tesselman, a man respected in the community.  Even if by chance a reader guesses the identity of the killer, which I did not, nothing can prepare the reader for some of the mind-thrilling twists left to discover!  Clay's unsentimental commentaries and insights haunt with a twisted mob version of everyday values turned to extreme.  Through Clay and his investigation, THE CUTIE makes  intriguing comparisons and connections between characters that maximize the intrigue.  Even the unlikely, unnerving Ernest Tesselman becomes a source of Clay's self-reflection.  If you haven't discovered Donald E. Westlake as of yet, THE CUTIE is a perfect choice to read a suspense-filled crime novel from a master, a novel that will keep you poised on the edge of your seat in the way only Donald E. Westlake can. If you are a Westlake fan, here's a chance to rediscover the early beginnings.  Although more than 40 years have passed since the original publication of this book, THE CUTIE still has the ability to leave a reader stunned with its freshness and cutting edge noir suspense.

Publisher:  Hard Case Crime (February 2009)
Original Title: The Mercenaries, 1960
Cover Art: Ken Laager
Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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