The Crime Factory have developed a reputation for publishing wonderful examples of modern noir fiction set in different locations and times. DOUBLE EXPOSURE is, however, a very different animal indeed, combining a past time frame (1948) with a dark and very atmospheric sense of place, and a hefty dose of the paranormal. Which obviously isn't going to be for all readers, but for those that are interested in something different and very well done, then DOUBLE EXPOSURE is well worth reading time.
The Photographer, never named, is centre of all of the action in this taut little novel. A desire for more artistic pursuits is well and truly beaten down by a stint as an army photographer in World War II so he now works for a local scandal rag - becoming a paparazzi styled snapper of celebrities, officials behaving badly, and crime scenes. It's his first assignment on a crime scene that sees him beating the cops to a boarding house in which a woman has been reported brutally murdered. Where he discovers a room positively soaked in fresh blood, and a body which he can only see through the view finder of his camera, and later in the developed negative. He's equal parts confused, and oddly somehow almost accepting of this weird phenomena.
Needless to say, there's not much that ruffles The Photographer. Not the corpse that only he can see, although the fact that there's something reminiscent about her pose does give him a slight twitch, always in the back of his mind. Even meeting the beautiful daughter of the wealthy family that controls Portvieux doesn't faze him too much although Loretta's dangerous, her brother James, just acquitted of the murder of three henchmen, is dangerous, and upsetting anyone in the Marne family is dangerous. Yet The Photographer agrees to meet Loretta after he takes her picture on the day her brother is released, because despite their shared interest in photography there's more to this woman than meets his eye - even in the view finder. A second room drenched in blood, a second victim only visible in the same manner, and The Photographer starts to wonder about possible connections between the people around him, his photographs and these mysterious, staged and very brutal deaths.
Dark and beautifully paced, DOUBLE EXPOSURE is a fascinating combination of noir styling with paranormal elements that work in a seamless manner. Whilst ensuring that many noir conventions are incorporated - the violence, the doubting internal voice, the femme fatale, the dark places, and the nastiest of human motivation - the inclusion of the paranormal elements and the weirdness of the disappearing corpses doesn't jar, it actually seems to fit. The resolution has aspects that are flat out spooky, combined with all too human nastiness, and there's always the question of what happens to The Photographer and Loretta.
Cleverly constructed, and particularly for this non-enthusiast for the paranormal, unexpectedly believable, DOUBLE EXPOSURE is written with considerable aplomb and style.