REVIEW: Are Snakes Necessary? by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman

Series: N/A
Book Number: N/A
Read this book for: noir, femme fatales, no investigators, surprise plot twists, thriller, American thriller, unfortunate circumstances
Quick Review: Brilliant plotting, breathless pacing, and completely unable to be put down once you’ve started it; this is a must-read for noir fans.


When the beautiful young videographer offered to join his campaign, Senator Lee Rogers should’ve known better. But saying no would have taken a stronger man than Rogers, with his ailing wife and his robust libido. Enter Barton Brock, the senator’s fixer. He’s already gotten rid of one troublesome young woman—how hard could this new one turn out to be?

Pursued from Washington D.C. to the streets of Paris, 18-year-old Fanny Cours knows her reputation and budding career are on the line. But what she doesn’t realize is that her life might be as well…

ARE SNAKES NECESSARY is a noir novel billed as a ‘female revenge story’. It is definitely that, in several ways, but it is also a well-plotted, gripping thriller.

Hard Case Crime has a knack for finding incredible writers and storytellers that are dipping their toes into the noir genre (check out reviews for screenwriter Donald E. Westlake’s FOREVER AND A DEATH, and Stephen King’s THE COLORADO KID, as well as Scott Von Doviak’s excellent CHARLESGATE CONFIDENTIAL). This novel is no exception. Brian De Palma is a legendary filmmaker — having directed Scarface, Dressed to Kill, and The Untouchables — and here, with the help of accomplished author Susan Lehman, he shows that he is also a fantastic storyteller in print.

The writing style of the novel comes directly from De Palma’s film background; sparse, quick-moving prose, present tense delivery, brilliant descriptors that are an evocative shorthand for what is going on in a character’s mind. It almost reads like a screenplay, but that pacing and near-abrupt style adds to the noir feel.

And this is a noir novel, all the way through. It is filled with femme fatales, rogues and scoundrels, shadowy fixers and a somewhat jaded outlook. Despite all that, it walks the line between too much and too little admirably, refusing to take itself too seriously, and managing to steer shy of being too camp.

Part of what keeps it from veering into the too-camp territory is the plot, which is a truly stunning series of masterstrokes. Without spoilers, this novel manages to wrap together several increasingly disparate plots in several surprising, satisfying ways. Needing to know what happens next in the crazy rollercoaster of events kept me turning pages without putting the book down even once; I sat down and read this from cover to cover in one sitting.

If you are interested in tight, fascinating plotting, nods to noir films, and a delivery that is paced in a way that will not let you go once you begin, definitely pick up ARE SNAKES NECESSARY?

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