the guardian Tue 06 November 2012
Ellin wrote his first short story, the title piece of this complete collection, in 1948. A macabre little tale about an unusual restaurant in Manhattan and its lonely patrons, it displayed both a debt to Edgar Allan Poe and an acute understanding of human nature that is the key to the success of his work. A further 30 years unfold between the covers, and Ellin's scope widens from the boroughs of New York, where freezing tenements and anonymous offices offer scope for all kinds of ingenious crimes, across the country to a Bible Belt rife with unscrupulous evangelistic healers, and a Florida shoreline where former GIs make careless bets with people's lives. Ellin is equally at home in Rome and Paris, where the clash of art with commerce provides plenty of grist to his mill. Essentially, he holds a mirror up to his country, showing through such hardboiled gems as "The Seven Deadly Virtues", written slap-bang in the Mad Men milieu of 1960, how American ambition has given so much to the art of crime fiction.