When you see an opening chapter of a book titled 'The Hundred and Fiftieth Day Before the Execution', as this one is, you get an immediate impression of what lies ahead, as well as a sense of inevitable doom. I found this to be a very clever method of piquing the interest, compelling me to read on.
The man facing execution is Scott Henderson, and we meet him as the story opens when he picks up a girl in a bar based solely on her outrageous hat. For some reason he's in a foul mood and pays her little attention, even though he takes her out to dinner, a theatre show and then back to the bar. When he gets home to his apartment he is greeted by the police...and the body of his strangled wife. Things start getting really interesting from here on out.
We find the story revolving around the careful recounting of Scott Henderson's movements on that night as he desperately tries to establish an alibi. As the title of the book suggests, the lady he was with that night has disappeared, leaving him in deep trouble. Chapter by chapter the clock ticks down building tension and adding an enormous feeling of desperation to the search. Three people, each of whom is willing to put themselves in danger to see that justice is served, conduct the search for that elusive alibi. Firstly, Henderson's girlfriend / mistress gets herself deeply involved, at times placing herself in extreme danger. The second person is an old school friend who Henderson calls, in the belief that he is the only person who would care enough to help. And thirdly, and most surprisingly, is the police officer that was instrumental in seeing Henderson convicted. He begins to hold grave misgivings about his guilt and provides the impetus behind their quest.
Cornell Woolrich expertly weaves an exhausting tale as lead after lead is explored in an all out effort to save Scott Henderson's life. As can be expected, given the nature of the chapter titles, the story culminates in a nail-biting ending, making it a most satisfying reading experience.