Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vintage Theme #1 Complete: The So Blue Marble

The So Blue Marble (1940) was the debut novel for Dorothy B. Hughes. It is a bit thriller, a bit noir, and just a tad bit off-the-wall. The protagonist is Griselda, former actress, current fashion designer for the rich and famous in the glittering world of Hollywood. She has come back East for a rest and has taken advantage of her estranged husband's offer of his apartment for her stay. Con (the husband) is away on assignment and the apartment is conveniently empty.

She hasn't been there long when her nightmarish journey begins. A pair of dashing twins--identical in every way save that one is golden blond and the other dark-haired--in top hat and tails walk her home and begin to invade her life. And her younger sister, Missy, is involved with them as well (and quite the little psychopath, by the way--this is no spoiler, you know it from the moment you meet her). They insist that they will leave her alone if she will only hand over a very important object. The so blue marble. We learn later in the book that the marble is rumored to contain secrets leading to riches untold as well as the "secrets of the greatest lost civilization, of the day when the sun was harnessed, as we would like to harness it, when gravitation was controlled as we haven't dreamed of controlling it." They don't believe her when she says she doesn't have it (and doesn't even know what it is) and before she knows it she's caught up in a web of terror and there are dead bodies littered everywhere.

On the one hand, there is a lot of suspension of disbelief required by the book. That a map to such treasures could fit in a "marble" that somehow opens up. That dead bodies can appear and disappear all over New York. That the twins can kill indiscriminately without being caught. That Grisleda's other sister Anne could have no clue about the sinister undertones in every meeting with the twins and Missy. On the other, this is one page-turner of a book. I read it in two sessions (two, only because I absolutely had to go to bed last night) and could not put it down during either session. Very compelling narrative and description...and even though it all seems unreal, it becomes quite believable while you're reading it. It is easy to see why this book is considered a classic in the field. Four stars.

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