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Mystery Monday – Home is the Sailor

Home is the Sailor by Day Keene

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


After almost 20 years, Sven “Swede” Nelson finds his life, his love, his lady – the sea – a harsh mistress. He deserts her to chase his dream of setting down with a nice girl on a farm in his home region near Hibbing, Minnesota.  But a 33-year-old can’t just walk away from the smoking, swearing, drinking, brawling, fornicating life he’s known since he was sixteen.  When he meets hot young widow Corilss Mason, he finds her irresistible. So much so that he helps her to cover up what we readers know as manslaughter but the DA will see as Murder One.

Keene’s bag of tricks usually featured a guy in transition torn between the opposing dreams of a modest life with a nice woman versus a rackety life with a low-down woman. Another theme is vast quantities of alcohol, which impair the protagonist’s judgment so severely that we understand how he ends up in impossible predicaments. As it happens in noir, the hero makes the wrong decisions and ends up an ant being stomped by elephants in the form of crooks and cops.

Other attractions include psychology, surprise, and pace. Keene captures the empty feeling of the main character as he realizes the wanting is often better than the having. And Swede feels a dismayed annoyance of being played for a chump. Keene fires off surprises concerning incident and characterization (such as a sympathetic police chief). Mystery writer and critic Bill Pronzini wasn’t kidding when he said Keene “…knew how to tell a story that gripped the reader immediately and held him to the end.”

So congratulations to Stark House Press and Hard Case Crime for getting these Fifties crime novels back into print. Noir fans should board a Day Keene roller coaster and see how fast and corkscrewy it goes.




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2 Responses to “Mystery Monday – Home is the Sailor”

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  2. […] mode of operation seems to be to choose the better or best of Fifties and Sixties writers such as Day Keene and Charles Williams. These books have first-person narration, hard-boiled dialogue, surprising […]

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