A teenage girl is found raped and murdered and a boy who was known to have sex with her is the prime suspect. The newspaper turns the case into a circus and the town turns against the boy? Did he do it? And will it even matter when the dust settles?
This wasn't quite what I expected from old Mr. Happy, Jim Thompson. Yeah, it has the feel of a lot of Jim Thompson books in that all people are bastards but it wasn't quite as bleak as the others. Sure, the Talbert boy went through the wringer and his parents and the lawyers didn't have a picnic but the main characters got off kind of light.
The thing that I really liked about The Criminal was the use of a variety of viewpoint characters. The Criminal is a pretty short book but Thompson used close to ten viewpoint characters and gave each a unique voice.
While it didn't have the usual brutality of a Jim Thompson novel, The Criminal did a great job at showing Thompson's skill as a writer. I wouldn't say it's a top tier Thompson, it's shoulders above some of his weaker efforts. It's an easy three stars.