Book Review: He Died with His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond

One of my favorite authors, Ken Bruen, recently put this book on his favorite 10 noir novels. I posted that article here:

I happened to be reading this book when I seen this list on which it appears.

This is the first book in Derek Raymond’s Factory series of which there are five books. The book was originally published in 1984 and takes place in London. This book is very interesting in the way it is written. It is written in the first person with a protagonist with no name. He is a detective in “The Factory” or the Unexplained Deaths Division. This case is of a middle-aged man who has been beaten to death. The way he is beaten is very savage as the killer or killers broke many bones and beat him severely. His death was not a quick one and was very painful. Our victim is a writer and as our nameless hero starts his investigation he comes across cassette tapes with our victims thoughts on them. The story is told as our protagonist in the present investigates new clues and interviews more suspects, it is also told in flashbacks with the tapes of our victim. As we bounce back and forth between the two we learn more about each as we find our hero and our victim have similar lives.

I’ll be honest, when I first started reading this I thought “why do noir fans think this is so great” as it did not suck me in right away. I did continue on and after about 50 pages I feel I got the rhythm of Raymond and really started to enjoy the story. Raymond did an amazing job, keeping the present protagonist’s words simple and to the point and our victim, who was a writer telling his story on cassette tapes, has a more elegant style, making it feel like two different authors. This book did intrigue me and I hope to read the other books in this series soon.

Favorite Tidbit: A French film was made in 1985 starring Charlotte Rampling, I have not seen this, but would like to.

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