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Double Indemnity

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. James M. Cain, virtuoso of the roman noir , gives us a tautly narrated and excruciatingly suspenseful story in Double Indemnity, an X-ray view of guilt, of duplicity, and of the kind of obsessive,...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

See the movie

OK maybe its because the movie is one of my all time favorites and is the definition of noir, I do not understand the 5 star reviews. Yes its a quick read that has a lot of fast plot and insight into the insurance business but wow seriously boring compared to the flick. Skip it and see the movie, one of the incredibly rare times when the movie is better....a lot better in this case.

Double the Fun

James Cain followed up his controversial THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE with another thin crime novel DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Like POSTMAN, it brings the reader into a world of moral indifference. In other words, it's great! The action follows insurance agent Walter Huff, who has at some point come up with an insurance scheme to off a guy and collect the insurance. He discovers his partner in crime, Phyllis Nirdlinger, when she inquires about accident insurance for her husband. But this is James Cain writing. It is not going to be that easy, is it? You bet not. Phyllis turns out to be way, waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy more dangerous than Walter ever imagined her to be. He learns too late that he is just one more patsy in Phyllis's own plans, much bigger and nastier than the ones Walter himself formulated. Complicating the matter is Phyllis's step-daughter, Lola, whose wholesomeness actually touches some soft spot in Walter's heart. Perhaps Cain mellowed a little bit between POSTMAN and DOUBLE INDEMNITY. The main character actually feels some degree of guilt for the crime and actually shows concern for someone besides himself. Jeez, what a softie. Do not worry, though. There is enough human darkness here to satisfy even the hardest of readers' hearts.


This book, more novella than novel, is intricately plotted and a very quick read. Wholly plot-driven, the book is a classic morality tale. A seductive woman, Phyllis Nirdlinger, desires to kill her wealthy husband. An otherwise intelligent insurance agent, Walter Huff, falls under her spell. Together they put together a seemingly failsafe plan to do the dastardly deed, making it appear as if it were an accident, so that the double indemnity clause in an insurance policy will kick into play. The problem is that all is not as it initially seems. Written as a first person narrative by the insurance agent, the writing is tight, spare, and lean. No word is wasted. Yet, the minimalism works to the advantage of the story, as it makes the intricacy of the plotting clear to the reader. Having seen the film with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in the lead roles, I kept hearing Fred MacMurray's voice in my head as I read the book. While the film deviates from the book in a number of ways, it is classic film noir at its best and well-worth viewing. Likewise, the book is a classic in its own right, and those who like hard-boiled crime fiction will not be disappointed.

Love it!

I love most of James M. Cain's work like The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce. My favorite piece of work, though, is Double Indemnity. It's tough, real and it was based on an actual incident. The dialog is cynical, which is as it should be. The chraracters have no lllusions about one another. They have no illusions about life, either. The lenght is just right for one of Cain's novels. I read it for the fourth time in a couple of hours and I will read it again. This is the perfect book for a rainy night. It's to be enjoyed with a glass of something strong, but not too strong. The story is already that.


Walter Neff is a bored insurance salesman who fantisizes of ways to cheat the company by committing the perfect murder, without ever doing anything about it. Phyllis Nardlinger is a Hollywoodland housewife who is quietly psychotic, (complete with a fantasy of being the angel of death,) has killed before and will kill again. Just because you've seen the movie, don't think you know the book. Still shocking after nearly seventy years after publication!! POSTMAN is great but this one's greater!

Chandler's Equal or Better In Inventing Classic Crime

Personally, I am even taken with Cain's work more than Chandler's in the hard boiled American genre school of crime. One enormous advantage he had was his plots were incredibly inventive. Part of this was because he knew the insurance industry cold and could put insider information about how insurance could impact on murder cases. This novel is also set in 1940s LA where insurance agent Walter Huff unfortunately falls for his client's wife, who wants to knock him off with Huff's help. Phyllis is a femme fatale golddigger who everyone but Huff can see straight through. He comes up with the idea of getting the husband to sign a huge double indemnity insurance policy that will pay them double when the husband meets with an untimely "accident." Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray played these two roles in the movie version and they were spectacular in it. "Body Heat" a modern movie in this style strongly reminds me of this early novel and film. If you were taken with "Body Heat," you will be equally taken with "Double Indemnity."
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