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Sleep with Strangers

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"Sleep with Strangers" by Dolores Hitchens is a taut and gritty noir novel that plunges readers into the seedy underbelly of Long Beach, California, in the 1950s. Private eye Jim Sader takes center stage in a case that begins as a simple missing persons investigation but soon evolves into a complex web of intrigue involving oil, real estate, and the darker elements of the city.

Hitchens skillfully crafts a suspenseful narrative, weaving together multiple layers of mystery and deception. The plot unfolds with precision, keeping readers on the edge of their seats as the enigma deepens with each turn of the page. The author's portrayal of the 1950s setting is vivid and atmospheric, capturing the essence of a time when corruption and shady dealings lurked beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary lives.

Jim Sader is a compelling protagonist, navigating the treacherous waters of a case that becomes increasingly convoluted. The dialogue is sharp and evocative, reminiscent of classic noir storytelling, and Hitchens' writing style effectively conveys the gritty and hardboiled atmosphere of the genre. The novel maintains a relentless pace, ensuring that the suspense is sustained throughout.

The exploration of themes such as oil, real estate, and the corrupt side of urban life adds depth to the narrative, elevating it beyond a typical detective story. The layers of intrigue contribute to the complexity of the plot, and readers will find themselves drawn into the tangled web of secrets and deception.

While "Sleep with Strangers" may not be a conventional whodunit, its strength lies in the portrayal of a morally ambiguous world and the flawed characters that inhabit it. Hitchens delivers a noir experience that is both immersive and thought-provoking. The novel's reputation as one of Dolores Hitchens' best works is well-deserved, and readers who appreciate suspenseful and gritty detective fiction will find much to enjoy in this gripping tale.

In conclusion, "Sleep with Strangers" is a captivating and skillfully written noir novel that stands out for its suspenseful plot, atmospheric setting, and well-drawn characters. Dolores Hitchens' mastery of the genre is evident in this work, making it a recommended read for fans of classic detective fiction and gritty mysteries. This four-star review reflects the novel's ability to captivate and engage readers in a suspenseful journey through the shadows of 1950s Long Beach.

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This is a good old fashioned detective thriller from 1955. Jim Sader is a private eye asked to investigate a missing woman by her daughter Kay (who speaks in “breathless murmurs”!). His partner Dan is investigating a missing husband, coincidentally both cases went missing on the same day. I enjoyed the writing and the set up of the mystery, clues are revealed and they don’t always add up. The whole thing is rounded up in a satisfying way. It is dated, some of the descriptions certainly wouldn’t been seen these days but it doesn’t detract from an entertaining read.

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This is the first noir and first Dolores Hitchens book I read. I enjoyed every bit of this story. As I read through, I could imagine the scenes play out (in black and white) with Jazz music in the background.

The storytelling is impressive and the character development is excellent. Overall, this is an entertaining and engrossing noir. Looking forward to reading the next book in this series - Sleep with Slander.

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This was the first of only two novels featuring PI James Sader and was originally published in 1955. This edition comes with useful biographical information and an assessment of the writer by Steph Cha.

I found it revelatory. The writing is strong, supple and finely-nuanced. The characterisation vivid even with minor players and shows an eye and ear for the telling detail. The setting, Long Beach in California leaps out, its sounds and smells keenly-depicted.

I read this in one sitting as I found it gripping and involving. It is only bettered in my reading this year by its successor,"Sleep with Slander".

4.25 stars. Highly recommended as a must-read.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital review copy.

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This story is a very well written classic hardboiled detective mystery. I did not realize, until I read the preface, that this story was originally published in 1955. I was pleasantly surprised. Delores Hitchens deserves more attention than she has received for her writing. The whole time I was reading, I was reminded of James M Cain and other authors of this type of fiction from that era. Delores Hitchen's story telling is just as good. The story kept me guessing from start to finish. I will be looking to read the second book in this series and the other works of this author.
Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read this e-ARC and Library of America for revisiting this unknown classic.

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Really enjoyed this novel by Dolores Hichens. First in a series of two James Sader mysteries. I'm glad the the Library of America is reprinting some classic noir novels, and this one holds up well. Can't wait to start the next one. #SleepwithStrangers #NetGalley

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This is my first book by Dolores Hitchens (and also my first noir book from the era) that I have read. Sleep with Strangers is Hitchens' first of two books with Jim Sader, her prototypical male noir lead. He struggles with alcoholism (which I actually though was an impressively executed characterization in the book) and tries to engage romantically with numerous suspects. In this book, Sader has two missing persons cases assigned to him. The first comes from Kay Wanderley, whose mother has gone missing a few days prior. The second is for Mr. Ajoukian, Jr., the heir to an oil fortune. Sader and his partner Dan (who calls Sader "Papa" 15 times in the book and I found it weird every time) investigate these two cases and uncover their interactions with the fortunes and class conflicts that oil has created in the growing city of Los Angelos.

The book took a while for me to get going, but eventually it picked up as secrets were revealed and bodies begin to show up. Having read more modern thrillers similar to this book, there was nothing truly surprising, but the book was a quick and enjoyable throwback. There were some uncomfortable moments related to the time period (one character was partly Asian, and there were numerous references to her "Oriental" or "slanted" eyes whenever she appeared). Also, the quote "'It's okay,' she answered, the first slang he'd heard her use." Nice to learn the work okay used to be slang. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for more noir fiction or an easy entryway into older detective fiction. Even with its problems, Hitchens wrote a fun thriller and snapshot of a byegone era.

Thanks to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Sleep With Strangers is the first of two novels in Hitchens’ James Sader private eye series. Originally published in 1955 and now being republished by Library of America, Sleep With Strangers showcases Hitchens’ talents as a crime writer. Set in Long Beach, California, Hitchens familiarity with the area is evident in the oil derricks dotting the hills, the bars off Pine Street, the stately houses on the bluffs, and the amusement park on the Pike. They are still pumping oil around Signal Hill, but mostly it’s now hidden from view. The Pike is long since torn down. The farms in Garden Grove have given way to endless acres of cookie cutter suburban ranch homes. But sometimes the wind still blows from the sea and, if you squint a little, you can see the Long Beach of 1955 that Hitchens knew so well.

Sader has a partner and their paths certainly cross in this novel, but mainly Sader seems to be on his own, plying his trade in endless bars and muddy oil fields. Sader is an older detective, not as spry as his young partner. Nor as attractive to women. Sader isn’t quite a man about town. His romance with alcohol is in the past and he knows now that one drink is like a ten-story drop. Introspective, brooding, cynical, but overall decent, except perhaps for one episode when he finally admits how bad he has it for his client, Kaye Wanderley, and what he would do to keep her safe.

It opens with a rainstorm blowing in from the sea and à slender blonde woman, gray eyes, and a lot of Rhinestone jewelry is about to hire Sader to find her missing mother. Kaye Wanderley is the woman. Her mother, Felicia, suffered, Sader later observed, from that problem that plagues the rich — having the money to buy everything they could ever want and finding that it still doesn’t make them happy: “I shouldn’t come back here any more, Sader thought. I’m getting to feel at home in a crazy kind of way. I’m beginning to get the idea you could sit in one of these piles surrounded by your stuff, and feel as miserable as if you were broke. Maybe more so. It might be frustrating to have money and to find out it really wouldn’t buy just what you wanted.”

Sader starts poking around the people Felicia knew and keeps coming up empty. Meanwhile, his partner has another missing person’s case, seemingly unrelated, but crossing similar ground. The missing both seemed to cross paths with the same people, but they are from different sides of town, from paths that shouldn’t cross.

Much of the novel might seem a bit plodding to those used to constant action, but Hitchens skillfully sets the stage, creating such sad characters and a constant sense of bad weather in sunny Southern California.

You know it’s going to be a tragedy from the first page as the bitter melancholy meanders through the story. You just don’t realize how no one will leave unscathed from this storm.

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