A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson
Although the plot is a bit clumsy and farfetched in places, this is still an excellent book. As usual with Thompson, he wastes no time getting the story started. Frank “Dolly” Dillon spies the woman who will will be his undoing in the first sentence of the book, and by the end of the first chapter, you know that these particular characters meeting under these particular circumstances are bound for trouble.
Thompson is simply brilliant at conveying how character and circumstance combine to form destiny. And he does it in simple, straightforward language, with no wasted words, no precious metaphor or long-winded descriptions. He simply takes you by degrees down into hell, and by the time you realize where you’re going, it’s too late to turn back.
Frank Dillon seems a pretty reasonable guy at first, and his more colorful comments come off as humorous. Over time, you begin to see his flaws and how they contribute to his undoing. One common element of all Thompson’s novels is that the protagonist remains a largely sympathetic character, even when he starts doing horrible things. You understand his thinking and his weakness, even as you cringe at what he’s doing.
This one gets very dark at the end.