The Barclay Place (1975) by Rae Foley

The Barclay Place by Rae Foley

6 stars (6/10 stars)

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? At least when you can forget what happened here.”

After three years in Europe, Maggie Barclay is coming home. She has decided that it’s time to face reality. To do that, she must return to the family home in Barclaysville where her parents died, one of two identical houses deep in the snowy woods. Maggie has always believed her parents’ deaths were a tragic accident. Now she’s not so sure—the closer she gets to Barclaysville, the more “accidents” she herself experiences. They say you can’t go home again, and someone seems determined that Maggie never will. Continue reading “The Barclay Place (1975) by Rae Foley”

The Better to Eat You (1954) by Charlotte Armstrong

The Better to Eat You by Charlotte Armstrong

3 Stars (3/10 stars)

Have you ever heard of a Jonah? Someone who brings trouble, bad luck, wherever she goes?”

Sarah Shepherd isn’t the type to draw attention to herself. Older than most of her college classmates, she sits quietly in the back row, hiding shyly behind her glasses. Sarah can’t hide her intelligence, though, and the thoughtfulness of her writing inspires history professor David Wakeley to seek her out. It’s a bigger challenge than he expects.

David learns why she is so desperate to avoid human contact: Sarah is convinced she is a jinx. Ever since the war, catastrophe has befallen everyone around her. The only way to keep others safe is by keeping away from them. David feels he must help Sarah, before her life is destroyed by what must certainly be a delusion. The dangers that threaten Sarah are all too real, however, and for once the professor doesn’t have all the answers. Continue reading “The Better to Eat You (1954) by Charlotte Armstrong”

Another Woman’s House (1947) by Mignon G. Eberhart

Another Woman's House by Mignon G Eberhart

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“I expect you’ve got into a habit of seeing to things. Taking my place, giving orders, seeing to the servants and the flowers. But it is not your house yet, Myra.”

Myra never intended to fall in love with a married man. Of course, Richard Thorne’s situation is unique: his wife Alice is serving a life sentence for murder. Richard and Alice can never be together again, yet if he divorces her, it will look as if he believes in her guilt. Ever since she came to live at Thorne House with her guardian, Lady Cornelia, Myra has admired Richard’s loyalty to his wife. She would never ask him to betray his marriage. Yet it has become intolerable, living in Alice’s house, loving Alice’s husband.

She can’t go on like this much longer. Something has to happen. When it does, however, it’s the last thing Myra ever expected. Alice comes home, her conviction overturned. But if Alice didn’t shoot Jack Manders on that dark night two years ago, then who did? Continue reading “Another Woman’s House (1947) by Mignon G. Eberhart”

Take Two at Bedtime (1949) by Margery Allingham

Take Two at Bedtime by Margery Allingham

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“You don’t want the scandal, of course (I don’t blame you), nor do I. But neither of us can help it. This is murder.”

At first glance, Take Two at Bedtime seems like an odd swerve for Margery Allingham, the crime queen known for her detective stories featuring Albert Campion. This is one of two volumes collecting romantic suspense novellas she published in American magazines during the 1940s. Allingham was always a chameleon, however. Brought up in a household of penny-a-word writers, she was willing to write anything that might sell and frequently used the Campion series as a way to experiment with trendy subgenres, from wartime spy stories to the paranoid thrillers of the late 1960s. Dipping a toe into the waters of romantic suspense fits right into Allingham’s surprisingly varied career. The results are entertaining enough, if unlikely to win over anyone who is not already inclined toward this brand of suspense. Continue reading “Take Two at Bedtime (1949) by Margery Allingham”

The Glass Slipper (1938) by Mignon G Eberhart

The Glass Slipper by Mignon G Eberhart

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“I’m afraid. I’m afraid of this house. I’m afraid of every shadow and every sound. I’m afraid when the door opens; I think I’ll die during that split second when I see the door’s about to open and can’t see yet that it’s just a policeman. Or someone I know…”

From the outside, Rue’s life looks like a Cinderella story. The former nurse has married her boss, brilliant surgeon Brule Hatterick, after the death of his wife Crystal. But no one ever tells you what to do when the fairy tale goes wrong. Brule has married Rue out of convenience so that she can run his home and raise his teenage daughter in the same efficient way she runs the operating room. The household remains loyal to Crystal’s memory, however. Rue can’t seem to get a foothold with the servants and young Madge won’t even speak to her. Rue is painfully aware that she isn’t beautiful like Crystal. She doesn’t know her way around high society. And if her marriage to Brule is strictly business, how long is he going to keep her around if she can’t fulfill her side of the bargain?

Just when it seems her situation couldn’t get worse, Rue learns that police are investigating the death of Brule’s first wife. Rue was the nurse on duty when Crystal Hatterick died, and it would be very convenient for Crystal’s friends and family if an outsider were the killer. The clock is about to strike midnight. Rue’s happy ending is in danger…and so is her life. Continue reading “The Glass Slipper (1938) by Mignon G Eberhart”

Vanish in an Instant (1952) by Margaret Millar

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

7 Stars (7/10 stars)

“We may never know the truth of what happened. Maybe there isn’t any whole truth about anything, just a lot of  versions, of different colors and different flavors, like ice cream, and you pick the most palatable.”

The holidays are a time to be with family, but Mrs. Hamilton never imagined she would be visiting hers in jail. Her daughter Virginia has been accused of an unspeakable crime, and she is a suspect that only a mother could love. Even Virginia’s own lawyer, Eric Meecham, dislikes his spoiled client and her overbearing mother. Little does he realize how complicated his first murder case is about to become. Continue reading “Vanish in an Instant (1952) by Margaret Millar”

Reprint of the Year Nomination 2: The Little Lie

The Little Lie by Jean Potts

Who among us has never told a lie? The power of domestic suspense comes from its ability to infuse the everyday with horror, even something as mundane as a little white lie. Few authors are more skilled than Jean Potts at tapping into these anxieties, and The Little Lie (reissued by Stark House) may be her masterpiece. Potts uses a single moment of dishonesty to prod at the many other secrets and lies hidden beneath the surface of small-town life, as one small sin escalates into shocking consequences. Continue reading “Reprint of the Year Nomination 2: The Little Lie”

Reprint of the Year Nomination 1: Beat Back the Tide

Footsteps in the Night and Beat Back the Tide by Dolores Hitchens

“It’s terrible when you fasten all your life to a mirage…The worst of it all is when you begin to see the truth—not the truth as the other might have revealed it, but finding it scrap by scrap, little by little. All the time you’re clinging to what you thought was there, and the change, the corruption, is eating it away, and finally there is nothing at all and you think it would be better to die.”

California is a place to reinvent yourself, but what happens when that doesn’t work? When you don’t find what you’re looking for and there’s nowhere left to go? That’s why California noir is the most hopeless. For the characters in Dolores Hitchens’ 1954 novel Beat Back the Tide, California is the end of the line. The gulf between its dazzling promises and what it actually delivers is profound. Everyone has a past they are trying to forget, but, like the tide, it just keeps roaring back. Continue reading “Reprint of the Year Nomination 1: Beat Back the Tide”

Letter of Intent (1971) by Ursula Curtiss

Letter of Intent by Ursula Curtiss

(7/10 stars)

“You dreadful creature. You killed her, but I suppose you know that.”

A bride-to-be is happily preparing for her wedding, until she receives an anonymous letter. “I’ve been waiting for this,” it reads. “If you don’t call off the wedding, I will.” But this bride is tougher than the letter-writer imagines. She has only one night to discover the identity of her enemy, save her marriage…and possibly her life.

Continue reading “Letter of Intent (1971) by Ursula Curtiss”

The Abductor (1962) by Dolores Hitchens

The Abductor by Dolores Hitchens

6 stars (6/10 stars)

“She tried not to feel afraid for herself. He had made no real threat at all. But there was murder in the air.”

Miss Moynton can hardly believe her eyes. A man is standing in the bushes at the edge of the schoolyard. “Marion,” he calls out softly. “Marion.” Even after he runs away, her worry remains—one of her second-grade students is named Marion.

The principal doesn’t seem concerned, however, and neither does little Marion’s mother. Miss Moynton is a new young teacher. Maybe she’s imagining things. Maybe she’s overreacting. After all, it’s not as if anything really happened. At least, not yet. Continue reading “The Abductor (1962) by Dolores Hitchens”