The book is published in trade paperback format by Hard Case Crime, one of my favorite publishers of the last dozen or so years. They've done a great job in publishing first rate crime and mystery novels with a retro look in the artwork and graphic design. Some of the books are reprints of vintage pulp novels, others (like FALSE NEGATIVE) are brand new works which fit neatly into the genre of retro pulp noir crime thrillers. I've read almost every title Hard Case Crime has published since they began business in late 2004 and I've enjoyed almost every one of the books (there have been only a very few that I didn't care for). If you like hard boiled crime novels and you see the Hard Case Crime logo on a mass market, trade paperback or hardcover book, grab it. You won't be disappointed.
FALSE NEGATIVE is a perfect example of what Hard Case delivers. Set in Atlantic City and New York City in the mid-1950s, the story revolves around a newspaper crime beat reporter who gets booted off of his regular job and ends up peddling stories to the detective magazines of the era. He investigates a series of brutal murders of gorgeous beauty pageant contestants to both solve the crimes and get good copy for his detective magazine (which he becomes editor of). He encounters corrupt cops, sleazy photographers, hack writers, beautiful women (of course), pimps, party girls and other colorful denizens of the east coast underworld.
FALSE NEGATIVE is a quick, fast paced read, the kind of book I like to refer to as "quick and dirty" (and those are not pejorative terms!). I particularly liked the behind-the-scenes peek at the inner workings of the old-time "true" detective mags (I have a few of these vintage mags from the 1950s and I find them fascinating).
It's not a difficult mystery to solve. I figured out the identity of the killer (amid a few red herrings and false leads) fairly early on in the game but still enjoyed the book. But you don't read a book like this to match wits with a brilliant deductive mind. You read it to enjoy the sense of place and time, the details of a bygone era of crime and corruption, a world populated by hard boiled characters, fast action, tough dialogue, flawed heroes and beautiful "dames." Thumbs up!