“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”
“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”
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”
“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”
“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.
“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”
“What a lovely cake,” said Lorna. She felt tears pricking her eyes: all this love, this cake being made by a devoted trio, for someone who did not deserve it.
Lorna Gibson knows she isn’t like other people. She can’t stand to be touched or share her emotions with anyone. The dentist she works for is confused by Lorna: “She’s repressed, I suppose, but I thought no one was nowadays.”
Deep inside, Lorna wants the same things as anyone else—friends, a husband, children. The closest she can get is by watching her neighbors, living vicariously through glimpses of their lives. The Titmusses are her favorite family, the one she most longs to be a part of. When something happens to June Titmuss that could change her life forever, of course Lorna sees the whole thing. And of course Lorna would do anything to protect this family. Anything.Continue reading “The Small Hours of the Morning (1975) by Margaret Yorke”
“Your future is before you. Or, if you choose, it is already behind you.”
There’s no reason for Marny to feel so uneasy about this trip. After all, her boss, airline owner Tim Wales, has invited her to his family’s vacation home in Miami many times. She gets along well with his daughter Winnie and his much younger second wife Judith. It’s foolish to worry, but she does.
Maybe the reason has something to do with Andre Durant. The handsome stranger appeared in Marny’s life only a week ago, but she is strangely drawn to him. When they arrive in Miami, however, she starts to wonder just how much she knows about Andre. She’ll have even more cause to wonder when a dead body turns up on the Wales estate, the body of a woman with ties to Andre. But Marny’s nightmare is only beginning, for the description of the killer matches only one person—Marny herself. Continue reading “The White Dress (1946) by Mignon G. Eberhart”
“Doesn’t it occur to you that somebody is—well, not telling the truth?”
“Lying,” she specified. “Somebody’s lying.”
It all starts with a white lie. When her boyfriend Chad breaks up with her, Dee Morris is humiliated. To save face, she tells her family and neighbors that he is out of town for a job interview. She assumes the story will eventually peter out on its own. But when outside forces intervene, Dee’s little lie becomes a very big one. How far will she go to protect her reputation? And what will happen when Chad returns? Continue reading “The Little Lie (1968) by Jean Potts”
“One murder has already been committed and they will not stop at another.”
At the last minute, Kyra Brake changes her mind about driving into town with her mother. “Tell Mother to go without me,” she tells the chauffeur. Kyra’s words come true, in the worst way imaginable. The car crashes only minutes later; Helen Brake will not survive her injuries.