Becky Masterman on The Night of the Hunter

CWA Dagger-shortlisted author Becky Masterman reviews classic crime novel The Night of the Hunter.

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You hear so much about pulse-pumping, heart-stopping, page-turning-till-you-get-paper-cuts action, it’s a wonder that crime novel readers manage to survive these books without suffering cardiac arrest.

It doesn’t happen for me with every book, but the one that most got me that way was Davis Grubb’s The Night of the Hunter, published in 1953 and still available if you look online for it.

After it was a book it was a movie directed by Charles Laughton starring the uber-creepy Robert Mitchum, who could do evil like nobody’s business. 

And before it was a book it was a real case, based on the serial killer Harry Powers, ‘The Bluebeard of Quiet Dell’, who was hung in 1932 for his murders of two widows and three children. In The Night of the Hunter, a desperately poor father is executed after giving his son the money he stole. A charismatic but bogus minister with the words HATE and LOVE tattooed on his fingers comes to town to find the money. He woos the widow.

The protagonist is the ten-year-old boy, and I held my breath for nearly two hundred pages as, one after the other, the adults he trusts fall away, useless to save him. It’s what I call a train wreck novel, one you can’t put down and at the same time can’t look away from. It was nearly unbearable, and I can’t recommend it enough. 

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Becky Masterman spends her days working in a publishing house and her nights writing stylish, exhilarating thrillers. Rage Against the Dying is her debut novel. Becky lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can visit her website here.