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5.0 out of 5 starsI very much admired this book
Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2020
The writing is sharp, the sex is sexy, and the story line is absolutely compelling. This is a roman noir in that Jim Thompson could have writtten. It's a book that loves Florida's heart of darkness in the way Charles Willeford or Elmore Leonard does. I like the explicitness with which the sex scenes are written, and frankly am a little surprised by some of the reviews here, even the positive ones, that apply the word "porn" to it. I think some readers may express shock that such a novel like this is written by a woman. But we ought to be able to see what Hendricks is going for in this book.
Purity generally carries the sense of cleanliness. That’s not the case in this book. If there’s any purity in Vicki Hendricks Miami Purity it is pure trash noir – and I mean that as a tremendous compliment. I found this book (like so many others) due to it being mentioned in a Ken Bruen novel (Bust, co-authored with Jason Starr). I read Miami Purity in one day, virtually in one sitting – it was that good.
Miami Purity is told from the first person POV of Sherri Parlay, a topless dancer who kills her abusive husband in the first paragraph of the book. In the second paragraph she is in jail, and by the third paragraph she is in the hospital, having been beaten within an inch of her life. Released from the hospital, she decides to clean up her act, to—in her words—“Really try to make myself a life, for the very first time. It was a big mistake.” And that big mistake plays out over the remainder of Miami Purity.
For Sherri Parlay, making herself a life means going to work at the local dry cleaners down the street from the bar she danced at. And there she meets Payne, the man destined to be the love of her life, and his overbearing mother, Brenda.
As this novel is set in the Noir tradition, you know things are not going to go well. Sherri’s tragic flaws are her love of drink and her poor taste in men—usually in that order. I’m not going to spoil the plot, but what ensues is reminiscent of The Postman Always Rings Twice but from a contemporary, female perspective. Vicki Hendricks proves herself to be a Noir master. She sets all the pieces in place with care, and once she starts knocking them down in her methodical manner, you cannot look away.
This novel was brilliantly written, thoroughly entertaining, and one that I cannot recommend highly enough. One bit of caution, Hendricks presents everything on the page. There are no cutaways when things get too graphic. Nothing occurs off stage. What goes on is explicit, but it is pure fun nonetheless. If you love Noir, this one is worth your attention.
5.0 out of 5 starsDark, Sexy, Uncontrollable, Passionate Noir
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2015
Can a woman write desperate thrilling painful noir without turning it into some allegedly cozy mystery? With Miami Purity, Hendricks wholeheartedly answers the question and gives us readers a modern noir that is filled with the spirit of Cain, Gil Brewer, and Willeford and the dime store tawdriness of Orrie Hitt.
At the heart of the novel is more than just a tragic woman caught in a downhill spiral of booze and uncontrollable lustful desires. Sherri is a broken person who is set to find a new life beyond the stripclubs and the abusive husband she got away with killing (that's all on page one). She is out to literally cleanse and purify her life with a job in a dry cleaners called Miami Purity where she falls head over heels for the boss's son, a pure Catholic boy, but also a twisted little mama's boy who wants to be punished. Sherri has no choice like any noir character. She is out of control and mad with desire.
Somehow Hendricks managed to create a novel that pays homage to noir's underpinnings and yet turn them upside down and put them through the spin cycle. What's great about the book is that it is steeped in dime store tawdriness as much as literary tradition.
Sherri Parlay just wants to turn her life around, hitting mid thirties she's had enough of taking her clothes off at a strip club for a living and wants something a little less risky and little more 9 to 5. That's how she ends up at Miami Purity, a family owned dry cleaning business headed up by a mother son combo. The son, Payne, in particular, is all the drive she needs to leave the life behind and start afresh and in no time at all she's up to her neck in garments, Payne and normalcy. Being a Vicki Hendricks novel this doesn't last as Sherri's other brain (not dissimilar to the one blokes have) leads her back to her former haunts and party girl ways. Somehow, Hendricks, makes accidental murder seem OK - as each body feel I thought to myself 'well sure I could see how easily that could happen' - the noir in this is that no murder is accident, and Sherri herself is cool, calm and calculated in the quest to achieve what she so desires. The Foreword by Ken Bruen and Afterword by Megan Abbott were nice editions and added a little something retrospectively to the think tank - 4 stars.
3.0 out of 5 starsI wanted to like this novel a lot more than I actually did
Reviewed in the United States on September 6, 2014
I wanted to like this novel a lot more than I actually did. I love dark crime fiction, but I was never able to truly connect with any of the characters. Sill, Hendricks is a fine writer, and the story she's telling here is worthwhile. It's twisted and dark, which I really love. Most readers seem to like it more than I did, so I would say give it a try. It just never quite caught fire for me, but I would still like to read other books by this author.