Carl Bigelow comes to Peardale to go to college. Or that's his story, at any rate. In reality, he's Charles "Little" Bigger, a tuberculotic hitman, tasked with killing a witness before a case goes to trial. Too bad Bigelow gets entangled with the man's wife...
No two ways about it; there's a lot of weird stuff going on in this one. You've got a five-foot hitman with tuberculosis, an odd cleaning woman with one normal leg and one stumpy one with a baby foot, and more dysfunction than you can shake a stick at.
While it's definitely a second tier Thompson, it's still a good read. Bigelow's descent into madness is well done. Has Thompson ever told a story where the narrator isn't unreliable? The supporting cast drove the story along, specifically wondering which of them, if any, were working for The Man. There were a ton of twists at the end that I didn't really see coming. Bigelow's final fate wasn't all that surprising. This IS Jim Thompson we're talking about.
Not my favorite Jim Thompson but not a bad read either. I wouldn't start my Jim Thompson reading with this one though.