Friday 5 June 2020

Forgotten Book - The Wife of the Red-Haired Man

I wrote recently about Bill S. Ballinger's excellent The Tooth and the Nail, which appears in a new volume published by Stark House Press. In the same edition is another of Ballinger's novels from the 1950s, The Wife of the Red-Haired Man. This too is told in Ballinger's trademark  narrative style, with one storyline presented in the first person, another in the third.

The similarities end there. The Wife of the Red-Haired Man isn't an ingenious puzzle, but a book in the old tradition of the story about the hunter and the hunted. Here the emphasis is on presentation of character and on the relentless building of suspense. It's fair to say that Ballinger masters these skills just as he did the skill of bamboozling the reader in the earlier book.

The hunted are a couple, a man called Rohan and a woman called Mercedes Turner. Rohan is an escaped convict and Mercedes is devoted to him, although at the start of the story she has inconveniently (and rather strangely, I thought) married a rich hoodlum. Murder is committed, and the pair go on the run.

The hunter is a police officer who is assigned to the case and follows them with a relentlessness worthy of the cop in The Fugitive. The meticulous care with which he investigates every lead is progressive. And right at the end of the book there is a revelation about him which is very well done and puts what we have read in a slightly different light. Another good novel by Ballinger and it's pleasing to see it back in print.

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