#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.

4 thoughts on “#BookReview The Listening Walls by Margaret Millar #crimefiction

  1. Great review! I’ve never heard of this author. Of course, I’m only just recently cycling back into crime fiction reading, and I prefer hist fic crime novels though I’ve been reading lots of good modern day ones lately.


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