“Web of Murder” was a Fawcett Gold Medal crime novel written by Harry Whittington at the top of his game in 1958. The 128-page paperback found new life in 1987 as one of a handful of Whittington’s works reprinted by Black Lizard Books with a great introduction by Whittington himself. For reasons unclear to me, “Web of Murder” was not part of the recent slew of Whittington novels digitized for Kindle consumption, so you’ll need to seek out a paperback to enjoy this one.
And you should! It’s a fast-moving femme fatale noir story about a guy who wants to kill his wife, so he and his mistress can enjoy the dead wife’s money. Charley Brower is a criminal defense attorney, and his secretary is a strawberry blonde looker named Laura. Cora, his frigid fatty wife, is a bit of a pill and sexually uninteresting to our narrator. However, she’s the one with the money in the marriage - inherited from her miser of a father after his death. Charley fantasizes of Cora dying, so he can begin enjoying life with her money instead of having it doled out to him a couple bucks at a time like a kid getting an allowance.
Charley keeps thinking that if only he could get sexy Laura alone for a weekend, he could screw her, get it out of his system, and resume some normalcy. He also knows that’s not how it works, and so does the reader. One day alone at the office, he makes his move on Laura, and it’s received warmly. The next thing we know, Charley and His secretary are banging like a broken screen door with great regularity while tubby, rich Cora stays at home knitting and preparing dinner while Charley “works late.”
Of course, you can see where this is heading. But with Harry Whittington, that’s not the point. It’s the flawless execution of these standard plot outlines that made the guy the King of Paperbacks. So, the idea of killing Cora becomes a topic of conversation between the illicit couple. How would they do it? How could they get away with it? Could they really be together thereafter?
Charley’s foolproof plan to make himself a rich widower is plenty elaborate, and the idea of having 24/7 access to a naked and willing Laura makes the extensive planning seem worthwhile. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback original if there weren’t some twists, turns, and bumps in the road. Whittington handles the narrative smoothly like a pro who’s done this a million times before.
You may see the twists and turns coming, but it’s impossible to deny that this is top-notch Whittington and a fantastic quick read. In fact, if you haven’t read any of Whittington’s classic paperbacks, I think “Web of Murder” would be an excellent place to start. It’s expertly-plotted with some gruesome violence, an erotic edge, and the quality of the writing is unparalleled. What more can you ask for? Highest recommendation.
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