What’s a Noir without its leading lady? That breathtaking starlet that not only captivates but polarizes the audience. Her good looks are only accessories to her charms. Her cunning wit has the ability win over anyone in the story including the hero. Both on screen and in the texts of the literary masterpieces that the films sprung from these women of intrigue glide into our lives but never fully leave.
In The Maltese Falcon Miss O’Shaughnessy is a smooth operator that comes out of nowhere. She captures Sam Spade’s mind and heart leaving Spade in an often uncomfortable position of either defending her or turning her in. Even though she was guilty of duplicity with Cairo and the Fat Man she still managed to capture the hearts of the audience as well.
In The Big Sleep Mrs.Vivian Rutledge redefines the ability to capture the audience and the hero. The way she plays with Marlowe is a work of art. Throughout the whole story the reader has to keep guessing just what this lady is all about. Is she really interested in finding her missing husband? Is she only interested in saving her sister Carmen? Or is she really hooked up with the hustler Eddie Mars? Often times throughout the story even Marlowe has to second guess himself on those questions.
And that’s how the story goes folks. The women of Noir are always essential to the story. The curves they throw the lead male character give the plot the opportunity to shake out and redefine itself. They put the mystery into the story for without them there often would not even be a mystery to solve. Their attraction can cause upheaval for the male detective working their cases and their involvement dances in and out of the gritty shadows that come to life from the corners of the spotlight.
In Darkest Vow the mold is not broken but rather is brought to life once more with the introduction of Alexis Santorum. This lady is Detective Joseph Riley’s Vivian Rutledge. Beautifully intoxicating with the flawless skin of an angel and softly curled hair she is the picture of the 1940s American glamor sweetheart. She comes to life from the silhouette cast upon the frosted glass window of Riley’s office door. From the time she walks into his office declaring the want of his assistance in tracking down her kidnapped husband all the way through the twists and turns of the plot she is nothing short of a complicated enigma. As Riley works the case he finds out about the seedier side of her past and just how she got tangled up with her husband.
Alexis Santorum is married to a philanderer and playboy known as William Santorum. He is the forward face of the Santorum clan, a well known crime family. He leads the family business in racketeering, gambling, and the escort trade. That is until his disappearance. With tear stained cheeks Alexis implores Riley to help her solve the mystery of the kidnapping. The ransom note she provides our hero appears straight forward but there is a twist in the next step of the case that causes Riley to stumble. When he regains his composure he is unsure of just how much to trust the innocence of his client.
Alexis plays to Riley’s emotions beautifully. At any one moment she can be the damsel in distress while at others she can appear totally lucid and totally in charge. She teases Riley with flirtatious affection. She is well versed at keeping her intentions close to her vest and can protect her truest interests with ease. Her passion and conviction are hard attributes to overlook. She is a master of speech and the monologue she delivers to Riley in his apartment would make any man feel guilty over doubting her or wanting to see harm come her way.
In the end Riley will have to unearth her deepest secret in order to discover what lurks behind the veil of her darkest vow. Can Riley survive without a scratch or will he be caught in the crossfire? Is Alexis the victim or the culprit? You will have to read the book to find out. It is my hope that Alexis Santorum will become as timeless as the inspirations that provided the basis for her character.
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