#BookReview The Listening Walls by Margaret Millar #crimefiction

The Listening WallsAbout the Book

Wilma Wyatt died when she hit the pavement – on that, and on nothing else, the eyewitnesses agree. Now her body lies lifeless in the street outside her Mexico City hotel, but a story of blackmail, missing persons and murder, stretching all the way to San Francisco, is only just beginning.

Back in California, private detective Elmer Dodd looks for answers, but this is a mystery that grows more twisted at every turn, and blood will be spilled again before he gets to the truth.

Format: Paperback (224 pages)         Publisher: Pushkin Vertigo
Publication date: 3rd October 2019 Genre: Crime

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My Review

I was intrigued when Elise at Pushkin Press sent me an email entitled ‘The Unfathomable Case of the Forgotten Female Crime Writer’ asking for my help with a mysterious case that needed solving as soon as possible. Elise explained they publish the work of – in her day – one of America’s most influential crime writers, Margaret Millar.

I’m not ashamed to admit I’d never heard of her but Elise reassured me I’m almost certainly not alone. Vastly successful in her day, the world seems to have forgotten Margaret Millar. Until now… as Pushkin Press are determined to revive Millar’s books as part of shining a spotlight on the forgotten female crime writers of the past two centuries.

20190925_172041-1When Elise asked me if I’d be interested in receiving a starter pack comprising The Listening Walls, Vanish in an Instant and A Stranger in my Grave, of course I said yes. And don’t they look lovely. The last two are still in my TBR pile but I picked up The Listening Walls, the most recently published of the series, as soon as I could.

On turning the last page, I found myself in agreement with the quote at the front of my copy by Christopher Fowler, author of the Bryant & May mysteries: ‘She can’t write a dull sentence, and her endings always deliver a shock’.

I really enjoyed the depiction of the minor characters and the little details of suburban and domestic life revealed during Elmer Dodd’s interviews with witnesses and potential suspects. Similarly, the clever plotting with clues (or are they red herrings?) at every turn is designed to wrong-foot the reader. It certainly succeeded with me resulting in frequent reassessment of suspects and the likely culprit. The book concludes with what I now know is Millar’s trademark final page reveal.

Described as ‘a suspenseful masterpiece about corrupted love, from a master of American noir’, The Listening Walls will delight fans of classic crime fiction and possibly introduce them to a new author whose other work they can discover. I shall certainly be moving Vanish in an Instant and A Stranger in my Grave up my reading pile.

In three words: Classy, suspenseful, clever

Try something similar: The Executioner Weeps by Frederic Dard (read my review here)

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About the Author

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.

#BlogTour #BookReview Death Makes No Distinction by Lucienne Boyce

Death Makes No Distinction

I’m delighted to be co-hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Death Makes No Distinction by Lucienne Boyce, the third in the Dan Foster Mystery series. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my review copy.

DMND Cover PrintAbout the Book

Two women at opposite ends of the social scale, both brutally murdered.

Principal Officer Dan Foster of the Bow Street Runners is surprised when his old rival John Townsend requests his help to investigate the murder of Louise Parmeter, a beautiful writer who once shared the bed of the Prince of Wales. Her jewellery is missing, savagely torn from her body. Her memoirs, which threaten to expose the indiscretions of the great and the good, are also missing.

Frustrated by the chief magistrate’s demand that he drop the investigation into the death of the unknown beggar woman, found savagely raped and beaten and left to die in the outhouse of a Holborn tavern, Dan is determined to get to the bottom of both murders. But as his enquiries take him into both the richest and the foulest places in London, and Townsend’s real reason for requesting his help gradually becomes clear, Dan is forced to face a shocking new reality when the people he loves are targeted by a shadowy and merciless adversary.

The investigation has suddenly got personal.

Format: ebook, paperback (264 pages)   Publisher: SilverWood Books
Publication date: 20th September 2019 Genre: Historical fiction, crime, mystery

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

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My Review

Although Death Makes No Distinction is the third in the author’s historical mystery series featuring Bow Street Principal Officer, Dan Foster, it can be enjoyed as a standalone if, like me, you’ve not read the two previous books in the series. There are, however, a number of references to key events in the earlier books and nuggets of information about Dan’s early life, no doubt explored more fully in the first two books (Bloodie Bones and The Butcher’s Block). Therefore readers who like the sound of this book might want to start from the beginning of the series.

Although death may make no distinction, as the title proposes, there is certainly a distinction when it comes to the priority accorded to investigating and solving the two crimes. Louise Parmeter’s relationship with the Prince of Wales (amusingly described as ‘a tub in blue on a pink sofa’ at one point) means her murder is considered much more important than the death of a prostitute. Indeed the latter is looked upon much as an occupational hazard. Dan has a more egalitarian sense of justice and begs to differ. It has to be said, however, that the majority of the book is taken up with the investigation of Louise Parmeter’s murder.

The course of Dan’s investigation takes the reader from the lavish surroundings and hedonistic lifestyles of the nobility to the lower reaches of society and the criminal underworld encompassing everything from bare knuckle prize-fighting, smuggling, prostitution to kidnapping, blackmail and murder.

Death Makes No Distinction is an assured historical crime mystery with a wealth of period detail that is sure to entertain fans of the genre.

In three words: Engaging, atmospheric, mystery

Try something similar: Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (read my review here)

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Death - L Boyce Landscape LRAbout the Author

Lucienne Boyce writes historical fiction, non-fiction and biography. After gaining an MA in English Literature (with Distinction) with the Open University in 2007, specialising in eighteenth-century fiction, she published her first historical novel, To The Fair Land, in 2012, an eighteenth-century thriller set in Bristol and the South Seas.

Her second novel, Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery (2015) is the first of the Dan Foster Mysteries and follows the fortunes of a Bow Street Runner who is also an amateur pugilist. Bloodie Bones was joint winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016, and was also a semi-finalist for the M M Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016. The second Dan Foster Mystery, The Butcher’s Block, was published in 2017 and was awarded an IndieBrag Medallion in 2018. The third in the series, Death Makes No Distinction, was published in 2019. In 2017 an e-book Dan Foster novella, The Fatal Coin, was trade published by SBooks.

In 2013, Lucienne published The Bristol Suffragettes, a history of the suffragette movement in Bristol and the west country. In 2017 she published a collection of short essays, The Road to Representation: Essays on the Women’s Suffrage Campaign.

Lucienne has appeared on television and radio in connection with her fiction and non-fiction work. She regularly gives talks and leads walks about the women’s suffrage movement. She also gives talks and runs workshops on historical fiction for literary festivals, Women’s Institutes, local history societies, and other organisations. She has been a radio presenter on BCfm, and a course tutor.

In 2018 she was instrumental in devising and delivering Votes for Women 100, a programme of commemorative events by the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network in partnership with Bristol M Shed and others. She also campaigned and raised funds for a Blue Plaque for the Bristol and West of England Women’s Suffrage Society.

She is on the steering committee of the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network, and is also a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Society of Authors, and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

She is currently working on the fourth full-length Dan Foster Mystery, and a biography of suffrage campaigner Millicent Browne. Lucienne was born in Wolverhampton and now lives in Bristol.

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