Posts tagged ‘Patricia Highsmith’

March 19, 2019

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

by Team Riverside

Paperback, Pushkin Vertigo, £8.99, out nowMargaret Millar VANISH IN AN INSTANT

A young woman covered in blood walks down a snowy small town street, and a man’s body is found with stab wounds nearby.  Minor league lawyer Meecham tries to get the woman released from jail, and there seems to be much more to the story than is evident…

Reprinted in a smart new paperback edition, this 1952 American mystery classic has introduced me to Margaret Millar (who is possibly my new addiction – I have already been trying to find out which of her other books I can get hold of).  An excellent Noir style thriller, Vanish in an Instant is more than just a great page turner.  The psychological aspects of the work ring true, and the style is fresh and engrossing.  “On the observation ramp above the airfield she could see the faces of people waiting to board a plane or to meet someone or simply waiting and watching, because if they couldn’t go anywhere themselves, the next best thing was to watch someone else going.  Under the glaring lights their faces appeared as similar as the rows of wax vegetables in the windows of the markets back home”.

I would recommend this for fans of well written crime, particularly to anyone who enjoys Patricia Highsmith or Raymond Chandler. Val McDermid finds Margaret Millar “stunningly original” in her review of Beast in View (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/books/review/women-crime-writers-eight-suspense-novels-of-the-1940s-and-1950s.html).

The Pushkin Vertigo stuff is always worth a go – I completely loved Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s Suspicion (https://theriversideway.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/suspicion-by-friedrich-durrenmatt/) .  I hope they will publish more of Millar’s work on this showing.  I am ready to feed my new addiction.

Review by Bethan

February 2, 2013

Alys, Always: Harriet Lane

by Andre

Harriet Lane ALYS, ALWAYSThis concise novel of quiet obsession is plastered with quotes from critics comparing it to Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell and Daphne Du Maurier. That’s a daunting triumvirate to live up to for Harriet Lane, but Alys, Always quickly sucks you into its chilly psychological drama. After witnessing the aftermath of a traffic accident involving the titular Alys, narrator and protagonist Frances Thorne inveigles herself into the life of Alys’s husband, a respected author, and their children.

The success of the novel is due in large part to the voice of Frances, a darkly complex literary creation. She may be a downtrodden newspaper books pages sub-editor who’s ‘pale, nondescript, as dull as my clothes’ yet Frances demonstrates burgeoning powers of manipulation and casts a cold eye on friends, rivals and family. Her suburban mother has a ‘deep-seated fear of vulgarity, as if it might suddenly overpower her in a dark alley’, while the London literary crowd and their privileged offspring are skewered with gleefully mordant phrases. It’s an assured debut that shows flashes of the suspense, bleak humour and cold psychological insight of her literary forebears.

December 24, 2012

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn

by Andre

Gillian Flynn GONE GIRLThis disquieting psychological crime novel is one of the most talked about books of the past year, partly for the simple reason that people love discussing other couples’ marriages. In this case, it’s the Dunnes: Amy’s a trust fund girl from the Upper East Side who inspired her psychologist parents’ children’s books, Nick’s a refugee from declining New York magazine journalism. After their careers crash simultaneously, Nick moves them home to recession-ravaged Missouri, where his parents are dying and his twin sister’s also retreated. When Amy goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick is obviously going to be scrutinised by the police and a public used to spouses coming unstuck on real crime shows and 24-hour news.

This episodic novel swings back and forth between Nick’s story in the days after Amy’s disappearance and his wife’s diary building up to the same event, until their accounts collide halfway through. The plotting is audacious but it’s the knife-edge narrative that makes this such a queasily disturbing, compulsive read – a 21st century Patricia Highsmith. Gone Girl is a crime thriller but it’s also a novel about the uncertain conspiracy involved in being a couple. As a reader, you pick a side, change your mind; but you’re never sure whether husband or wife will get the last word.