Elise went on to say that ‘Pushkin Press’ imprint Pushkin Vertigo, is the proud publisher of one of America’s most influential crime writers –Margaret Millar who was hugely popular in her day but has now largely fallen out of popular consumption. Elise explained how Millar’s psychologically complex thrillers have some of the best realised characters and most emotionally brilliant writing of all twentieth century crime, earning her a stream of praise from fellow writers. However, the world seems to have forgotten her.
Elise told me ‘Pushkin Press are determined to revive Millar. And not only that, they want to shine a spotlight on the forgotten female crime writers of the past two centuries, where strides in both the genre and in women’s writing have taken place.’
Now, with that kind of information I couldn’t resist seeing what all the fuss was about! I would like to thank Elise for sending me copies of three of Margaret Millar’s books: A Stranger In My Grave, Vanish In An Instant and The Listening Walls. What could be better in attending the recent Capital Crime in London than reading a crime thriller on the train? I’m delighted to share my review of The Listening Walls today.
Pushkin are re-releasing The Listening Walls today, 3rd October 2019, and you can find buy links for all three books here.
The Listening Walls
Amy Kellogg is not having a pleasant vacation in Mexico. She’s been arguing nonstop with her friend and traveling companion, Wilma, and she wants nothing more than to go home to California. But their holiday takes a nightmarish turn when Wilma is found dead on the street below their room-an apparent suicide.
Rupert Kellogg has just returned from seeing his wife Amy through the difficulties surrounding the apparent suicide of her friend in Mexico. But Rupert is returning alone-which worries Amy’s brother. Amy was traumatized by the suicide, Rupert explains, and has taken a holiday in New York City to settle her nerves. But as gone girl Amy’s absence drags on for weeks and then months, the sense of unease among her family changes to suspicion and eventual allegations.
A Stranger In My Grave
A nightmare is haunting Daisy Harker. Night after night she walks a strange cemetery in her dreams, until she comes to a grave that stops her in her tracks. It’s Daisy’s own, and according to the dates on the gravestone she’s been dead for four years.
What can this nightmare mean, and why is Daisy’s husband so insistent that she forget it? Driven to desperation, she hires a private investigator to reconstruct the day of her dream death. But as she pieces her past together, her present begins to fall apart…
Vanish In An Instant
Virginia Barkeley is a nice, well brought-up girl. So what is she doing wandering through a snow storm in the middle of the night, blind drunk and covered in someone else’s blood?
When Claude Margolis’ body is found a quarter of a mile away with half-a-dozen stab wounds to the neck, suddenly Virginia doesn’t seem such a nice girl after all. Her only hope is Meecham, the cynical small-town lawyer hired as her defence. But how can he believe in Virginia’s innocence when even she can’t be sure what happened that night? And when the answer seems to fall into his lap, why won’t he just walk away?
My Review of The Listening Walls
When Wilma dies in a fall from a balcony a chain of events is set off.
In today’s age of crime writing twists, psychological thrillers and domestic noir, it is absolutely fascinating to discover a book originally published sixty years ago in 1959 that has all those elements in the brilliantly written The Listening Walls.
Margaret Millar has created a perfect plot that writhes along, wrong footing the reader and adding surprise after surprise along the way. I genuinely didn’t guess all the outcomes for all the characters so that I finished The Listening Walls feeling I had been brilliantly entertained. Whist there is murder, the skill of the writer comes in her ability to convey her meaning without recourse to overblown visceral descriptions. I loved the style.
The characters initially seem quite simple, but as the narrative progresses, the reader discovers that they have secrets, emotions and motives that are complex and fascinating. There’s an interesting exploration of the difference between public and private personas that any modern reader can appreciate. I found private investigator Elmer Dodd equally as compelling as Christie’s Poirot for example.
And despite the era of the book, where men are frequently socially in control, the writing, characterisation and plot in The Listening Walls all feel incredibly fresh and modern. There is no gender stereotyping here in which person is duplicitous or manipulative and I found more layers to this story than I anticipated so that I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
In The Listening Walls Margaret Millar blends elements of the Golden Age of crime fiction with those to be found in the most popular crime fiction today. I thought it was excellent and am ashamed that I have only just discovered this talented writer. I’ll definitely be reading more of her work as soon as I can.
About Margaret Millar
Margaret Millar (1915-1994) was the author of 27 books and a masterful pioneer of psychological mysteries and thrillers. Born in Kitchener, Ontario, she spent most of her life in Santa Barbara, California, with her husband Ken Millar, who is better known by his nom de plume of Ross Macdonald. Her 1956 novel Beast in View won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel. In 1965 Millar was the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year Award and in 1983 the Mystery Writers of America awarded her the Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement. Millar’s cutting wit and superb plotting have left her an enduring legacy as one of the most important crime writers of both her own and subsequent generations.