Title: Sleep with Strangers (Jim Sader #1)
Author: Dolores Hitchens
First published in 1955; republished on 6th July 2021 by Library of America
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers | Noir
Jim Sader, a Private Investigator, is hired by a young woman named Wanderley. Her mother’s gone missing and she requests Sader to find her. Meanwhile, Dan Scarborough, Sader’s partner, is hired to find a young man named Ajoukian. Two people went missing on same night and the PIs wonder if the two cases are connected.
Sleep with Strangers is the first Dolores Hitchens novel I read. There are two books involving Jim Sader – Sleep with Strangers and Sleep with Slander. Both the books have been recently republished by Library of America. This book also happens to be my first noir read and I am looking forward to try more in this sub-genre.
The story starts with a young woman seeing her (terrace) furniture getting drenched in the rain. The doorbell rings and Jim Sader enters the room.
“Do you want somebody followed? Or does someone owe you money? Or could it be dirty and dramatic like blackmail?
She roused, shook her head. “It isn’t any of those things, Mr. Sader. I want you to find my mother. She’s missing.”
Jim takes details of young Wanderley’s mother – the last time the girl saw her mother, details of friends and places she might have visited. Sader returns to his office and meets his partner Dan. Dan’s hired to find a young man who went missing on the same day as Mrs. Wanderley. Quite a coincidence that two people go missing on the same night. The investigators wonder if the mispers knew each other.
As the story proceeds, secrets tumble out of the closet. It seems like Ms. Wanderley is hiding something from the PIs. The missing young man is the son of a rich oil magnate while the missing woman is a real estate agent. How are the two cases connected? The investigation leads Sader and Dan to book-keepers to pig concession stands to unused oil sumps.
The writing is simply superb. I could actually imagine the story in black-and-white scenes with jazz playing in the background. (What can I say, I have a very imaginative mind.) Perfect noir story with well-developed characters. The only niggle I had has something to do with the type of stories written in this era. Totally not the author’s fault, though. Men in long coats and cigarettes’ in their mouth, pretty ladies who need saving from the terror of whatever… a tad Hollywood-ish for my taste.
There’s this one particular ‘incident’ which made me giggle. This happens almost at the end of the story. Sader takes Ms. Wanderley away from Long Beach (the whole story is set here) because he believes the lady is in distress. *Jazz playing in background* At one point in time, Sader stops the car and pulls the young girl towards him and kisses her. She neither kisses back nor does she stop him (she’s in distress and he’s ‘rescuing her, you see…). Few days later, Sader tells Dan he’s adopting her as she’s an orphan now and needs a father. Gosh, isn’t this like an incest or something? First kiss and then adopt? Good lord!
Overall, this was a very good read; engrossing and entertaining. If you love mystery classics, you have to give Sleep with Strangers by Dolores Hitchens a read.
I received an ARC from Library of America and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.