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I Married a Dead Man (1948)

de Cornell Woolrich

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291869,527 (3.83)28
Cornell Woolrich is at his best here in this well-paced novel of identity, second chances, and a past that refuses to go away. With a fine new introduction, new cover art by Matt Mahurin, and a gallery of old paperback and hardcover editions and film posters.
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Best one so far. Desperation, tragedy, and deceit meet decency, kindness, and generosity - all to be destroyed when the past rears its ugly head, and good intentions lead to inescapable misery. How could you not love it? And any writer who sees a cigarette being smoked in a dark doorway as a "red sequin" has my undying admiration.

Maybe Woolrich didn't know squat about babies (he never had any - thank goodness). But at least this time we get a woman with some actual emotions and thoughts and grit and guts, unlike some of his bloody-minded, sociopathic witches. The plot gets overly tricksy in the end - as his plots tend to do - but overall it's brimming with primal emotions of love and fear, and the writing crackles. Well done, Cornell! ( )
  JulieStielstra | Jul 22, 2021 |
This book was incredible! I bought it for a film noir class, but we never got around to it, so I read it in my spare time, and I'm glad I did. The story is fast-paced, but not so fast-paced that you get lost in all the action. The story line is easy to follow, and the author has an excellent writing style. Woolrich is also surprisingly knowledgeable about the way that women think. ( )
  Borrows-N-Wants | Sep 22, 2018 |
Nineteen year-old Helen Georgesson boards a train leaving New York. She's eight months pregnant, has just seventeen cents and has been abandoned by her husband. What little plans she has are to go back to San Francisco and start her life over. On board, she meets the Hazzards, a happy young couple who include Helen in their conversation and meals. Patrice Hazzard is about Helen's age, she's seven months pregnant and she's going to meet her in-laws for the first time. The three have just a day to become friends, because that night the train goes off the track and the Hazzards are killed. In the chaos, Helen is mistaken for Patrice, and though she's a nice, honest girl, she needs somewhere to belong and raise her newborn, and the Hazzard family needs the connection of their son's child.
Of course someone will recognize Helen. ( )
  mstrust | Jan 20, 2016 |
With a title like that, I needed to read this book. And with a cover like this, I figured it would be pretty creepy, or at least unsettling. It certainly was that.

Helen is pregnant and has been abandoned by the man who did it, but she has received a one-way ticket to San Francisco. On the train she meets a couple named Patrice and Hugh. They are going to visit Hugh's parents, whom Patrice has never met. Patrice has just given Helen her wedding band to try on when the train crashes, and Patrice and Hugh are killed. So the rescuers think that Helen is Patrice, and she gets a chance to start anew. At least for a while...

This was an excellent book. In addition to the gripping plot, Woolrich's writing was particularly skilful, using repetition (with slight alterations) to great effect. (See the beginnings of Chapters 25, 26 and 27 for an example.) I could not put it down, even when it was almost too tense to carry on with. Highly recommended if you can get your hands on a copy. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Oct 18, 2014 |
This book has a clever premise, which I won't give away, but suffers throughout - particularly at the beginning and end - from an overly melodramatic narrative that definitely dulls the fascination of seeing how the sort-of-heroine deals with her unique situation and the threats to the future of her and her child. It's like reading some sort of out of control romance novel. Woolrich could, and did, write a lot better than this in other books and stories. In the end, the resolution depends on the weakness of character of the two main characters to perpetuate the whole melodramatic business. Or maybe Woolrich couldn't think up a better ending. This is based on an earlier short story, which had a different ending. ( )
  datrappert | Feb 16, 2010 |
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Cornell Woolrich is at his best here in this well-paced novel of identity, second chances, and a past that refuses to go away. With a fine new introduction, new cover art by Matt Mahurin, and a gallery of old paperback and hardcover editions and film posters.

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