This is a short book with a very simple story. Frank and Cora, limited by poverty and education, and driven by lust and greed, work together to kill Cora’s husband Nick – with questionable success.
In the Hatchard’s Crime Companion, the CWA reviewer talks about ‘a sexual explicitness that caused offence at the time it appeared, although it seems fairly ordinary today’.
I think that gets it slightly wrong. On one hand, the sexual content is tame (although I am writing this during a trip to Riyadh so perhaps I’m being a bit Eurocentric). However, the sheer force of Cain’s description is still overpowering. Both Frank and Cora like mixing violence in with their sex, but I think their self-loathing is what really tips the balance.
Given the amorality of the characters (and I do read them as amoral rather than immoral), the ending is surprisingly restitutive, with everyone getting their just desserts.
Ultimately, Postman deserves your time as a reader. Not necessarily for the characters or the plot, but for the power of Cain’s prose.
One final mystery – I got to the end and still couldn’t work out why The Postman Always Rings Twice is called The Postman Always Rings Twice. Did I miss a page? Let me know…
Final destination: Back to the library
Update: Mysterious Press tell the story of the movie version in their 101 Greatest Movies of Mystery and Suspense.
Update: Another review of Postman at Crime Fiction Lover.