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March 20, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

I MARRIED A DEAD MAN by Cornell Woolrich (Penguin: 154 pp.) and X REAR WINDOW AND OTHER STORIES by Cornell Woolrich (Penguin: 169 pp.; $6.99 each). Out of print for over a decade, these two books will acquaint a new generation of readers with the bitterly ironic work of one of the masters of noir detective fiction. In "Rear Window," a man who stares out a window realizes a murder has been committed; his efforts to prove his discovery lead to a deadly game of cat and mouse. In the more intense novel, "I Married a Dead Man," the narrator finds herself down on her luck: Woolrich describes her as "A leftover, marked-down doll, with no bright ribbons or tissue wrappings. . . . A doll with no donor or recipient. A doll no one bothered to claim." Mistaken for the bride of an accident victim, she finds love and luxury for the first time in her life, only to have this artificial paradise threatened by the specter of her past. Readers who believe the noir genre began and ended with Dashiell Hammett and Philip Marlowe are in for a darkly engaging surprise.

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