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Bookworm Blurbs

I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.

Rear Window / It Had to be Murder

The Cornell Woolrich Omnibus: Rear Window and Other Stories / I Married a Dead Man / Waltz into Darkness - Cornell Woolrich

Mystery aficionado Ellery Queen said of Cornell Woolrich that he can "distill more terror, more excitement, more downright nail-biting suspense out of even the most commonplace happenings than nearly all his competitors".Woolrich's work continues to fascinate readers all around the world, and this trilogy should become a staple in all noir collections. It contains two full length novels (I Married a Dead Man and Waltz into Darkness) and five short stories, including "Rear Window" -- works in which one of the genre's consumate "poets of terror" explores all the classic noir themes of loneliness, despair, futility, and occasionally redemption. (source)

 

Note: This review is not for The Cornell Woolrich Omnibus as a whole, but ONLY for "Rear Window," originally published as "It Had to be Murder." I have not read the other works in this collection, and thus cannot vouch for the quality of them. 

I'm fairly certain that, in this day and age, most people who are familiar with the story of "Rear Window" associate it only with the Hitchcock film starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. It's a great movie and I highly recommend watching it. But that film is based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich, which was originally titled "It Had to be Murder," and if you're in the mood for a quick but good suspense story, you need look no further than this. 

 

I'm usually not a fan of the short story. They don't lend themselves to being terribly detailed and it takes skill to be able to tell a full story, with well-developed characters and a complete plot, in less than fifty pages. I think that it's fair to say that most authors struggle to successfully tell their story so concisely. For Woolrich, it comes across as effortless. The story of Hal Jeffries' unraveling of a murder is perfectly suited for the short story format. Indeed, I think that this might be the first short story that I've ever read where I feel totally and completely satisfied at the end. Woolrich didn't add fluff, but he didn't leave out anything important, either. Additionally, while I originally thought that I didn't know much about Jeff by the end of the story, when I actually sat down and thought about it, within a brief 36 pages, Woolrich actually tells the reader quite a lot. By the end of the story, we know that Jeff is middle-aged, a bachelor, intelligent, but doesn't have time to spend on reading stories, yet he has a bit of an overactive imagination, but he still possesses perseverance and focus. This is actually an awful lot to know about a character in such a short amount of time, and I'm amazed at Woolrich's ability to convey all of this to me in such a way that I wasn't even conscious of him doing so. His subtlety is unrivaled. 

 

"Rear Window" isn't a story that's going to absorb your attention for a week. In fact, you'll be lucky if it takes a whole night. But if you're someone who doesn't have a lot of time to read, but is craving a suspenseful story that will leave you feeling satisfied in the end, give this one a try - and then, do yourself a favor and watch the movie. It's a wonderful adaptation!