I have my friend Matt Wright to thank for introducing me to Jim Thompson. He gave me a copy of Savage Night as a gift probably 10 years ago and I've been a Thompson fan ever since. Finding a Jim Thompson novel I haven't read on the shelf at a used bookstore is always a small thrill.
Anyhow, The Criminal is short, even for a Jim Thompson novel. Really is it more of a novella. This might be the most pessimistic novel of Thompson's I've ever read. It is sort a Rashomon style look at the rape/ murder of a teenage girl. Chapters alternate the point of view and inner thoughts of the different characters (which Tom Perrotta did well in his novel Election, which is a great book and movie). Every character is deeply flawed, and really no one seems to care that a young girl was killed. They just care about how that fact intersects with their lives. Bleak stuff.