|the cover my edition is missing|
The Angry Heart (1947) by Leslie Edgley
Curt Prentice is on a mission. Recently returned from his tour of duty in the second world war, Prentice has vowed to track down the man responsible for gunning down his brother-in-law in cold blood and forcing his wife to commit suicide while Prentice was serving his country. Judson Mason was a dirty cop who didn't mind who he killed as long as got kudos for "cleaning up the streets." But eventually, his deeds caught up with him and he was forced to leave the police department in Chicago. He made his way to Los Angeles where he works as handyman and security for an art gallery. And Curt hires a private detective to find him.
But when he gets to California, things get complicated and interfere with the mission. Mason's daughter Carol reminds him in some way of his wife and he can't kill the man in front of his own daughter--no matter how much he hates him. And then a drawing of Curt's (he was an artist before army life....) shows up at the gallery and the gallery owners show an interest in his work. And then Nedda Kendall, a patron of the gallery, draws his attention the way no woman has done since he learned of his wife's death. The final complication is murder....and not the one that Curt planned.
As the drama unfolds, Curt has learned that he cannot commit murder--even if he was able to kill when necessary on the battlefield; even if he fully believes the man was guilty of murder himself. But--if he can investigate the latest murder and prove that Mason was behind it and the state can execute him, then maybe Curt will be able to finally have some peace. But is Mason guilty of murder in California or is Curt trying to twist the facts to fit what he wants...and will he lose someone else who is becoming dear to him before he finds out?
A well-plotted mystery with an interesting look at revenge and how it plays out in Curt's life. We ride along on his roller-coaster as he figures out whether he really can kill the man who destroyed his family. I didn't spot the killer--though looking back, I think I should have. The clues aren't obvious, but they are there. Edgley has a good control of his characters and manages to give a good sketch in just a few words. I do think the relationship between Curt and [redacted] is a little bumpy and doesn't feel quite right in the way it develops (a little quick, perhaps). But that's just a minor quibble. Over all, I enjoyed this first taste of Edgley's work and will definitely pick up any others that I find. ★★★★
First line: As the parking lot attendant slouched toward the shabby sedan in the late afternoon, Curt reached under his coat again to touch the cold flat shape of the German Luger in his inner breast pocket.
Last line: "Of course," she said, "We're young."
Deaths = 7 (four shot; two drowned; one natural)