“The printed letters are polite: Please Do Not Disturb. But what they really mean is: danger! Keep out! You’ve seen that sign on a door in a factory or a railroad station, haven’t you? And you didn’t rush to open that door, did you? Then why open this?”
Edith Talbot doesn’t remember who recommended the Majestic Hotel to her. All she knows is that after being turned away from dozens of hotels due to the wartime housing shortage, she is willing to sleep just about anywhere. Taking pity on Edith’s obvious exhaustion, the clerk at the Majestic lets her have the last room in the house, the one he isn’t supposed to rent.
The sign on the room next door reads “Do Not Disturb.” But Edith is disturbed, terribly so, by the screams and groans she hears from that room. By knocking on the door of room 1404, Edith is taking the first step of a journey through the dark heart of the American homefront. Continue reading “Do Not Disturb (1943) by Helen McCloy”
“I think it’s funny that you came down here to save Maloney from being murdered and now you’d like to murder him yourself.”
Bryan has just met the love of his life. Unfortunately, Paula Storm is as troubled as her name. Two years ago, in England, she survived a bombing that killed her boyfriend and left their friend Bill Maloney horribly injured and out of his mind. She isn’t ready for a new relationship, but Bry thinks he’s starting to win her over. Then he reads in the newspaper that she’s eloped with Bill Maloney. Continue reading “Echo of a Bomb (1942) by Van Siller”
“I wonder if you know what it’s like, Alice, to think you’re somebody’s best friend and then discover you don’t know the first thing about them. You tell them everything about yourself, everything—and you think they’re doing the same with you, and then you find they’ve left out every single important thing.”
Wartime can bring together the most unexpected people. That’s certainly the case for quiet, competent Alice Church and melodramatic Cecily Lightwood, who have nothing in common except their work at the same government ministry. Cecily is eager for Alice to meet her best friends, who include some of the most well-known literary figures in London.
One of Cecily’s friends won’t make it to the party alive. By the end of the night, another will be under arrest for his murder. Alice is sure there’s more to the story, however. She soon learns that sometimes your best friend can be your very worst enemy. Continue reading “Murder Among Friends (1946) by Elizabeth Ferrars”
“Terror was a luxury. She couldn’t afford it now.”
Julie Guille first heard about the Blackbirder on the night Maxl died. As a French war refugee who is in the United States illegally, the last thing Julie wants is to catch the eye of an old acquaintance, especially a German. She agrees to dine with him only to avoid a scene. “She smiled at him. Her smile looked real. She had learned to form it that way.” That night Maxl tells her the amazing story of a pilot who smuggles refugees across the Mexican border, a man they call the Blackbirder.
When Maxl is stabbed to death in front of her apartment building, Julie knows she will be the prime suspect. Only one person can help her escape: the Blackbirder. To find him, she will have to make her way across a strange country, using the skills she learned in wartime France. With the FBI and the Gestapo on her trail, Julie will need every bit of her courage and intelligence if she hopes to survive. Continue reading “The Blackbirder (1943) by Dorothy B. Hughes”
“One of the hazards of the hunted, Paul reflected, was the psychology of the hunted. It was hard to fight against the idea that every casual stranger was an enemy, that secret unknown watchers ringed one in.”
In the old rolltop desk, Mary Strong has sixteen letters. They are from her husband’s best friend Max, who also became Mary’s best friend when she married Paul. A war correspondent on assignment in the North Atlantic, Max promised to write to his friends every two weeks, and he’s kept his promise. The sixteenth letter should have been the last. Max is finally coming home.
When the plane from Reykjavik lands, however, Max is not aboard. Then Mary and Paul receive their seventeenth, and final, letter from their friend. Instead of a letter, the envelope marked “17” contains only blank pages and an old theater program. Mary and Paul are convinced that Max has sent them the clue to a serious crime. To prove it, they must navigate wartime secrecy and travel restrictions to plunge straight into a nest of saboteurs. With both Mounties and German spies on their trail, the Strongs are in for the adventure of their lives. Continue reading “The 17th Letter (1945) by Dorothy Cameron Disney”
“If I had to draw a picture of hell, do you know what it would be? An enormous mouth whispering into an enormous ear. And never stopping.”
As World War II rages, the greatest danger one American soldier faces is from his own tortured psyche. Jeff Mitchell is an animator of propaganda, stationed at a small-town military base outside Washington DC. He feels useless with no chance of going into combat. Trapped in a fetid atmosphere of sex, violence, and boredom, he becomes convinced that his wife, Mary, is being unfaithful. If only he could be more like his mentor, Pete Keeley, who has just returned from the Pacific. If only he could kill… Continue reading “The Brick Foxhole (1945) by Richard Brooks”
“We mustn’t,” said the Superintendent, “forget there are other people who would bear looking into. The trouble, in fact, seems to be that there may be too many.”
There are 125 good reasons to kill Henry Grayling. 124 of them are the pound notes in his briefcase, tomorrow’s payroll for the chemical works. The other is his own repellent personality.
During a treacherous winter train commute, Grayling spends his last conscious hour surrounded by people he hates, only to collapse on his own doorstep. His death is a strange one, even for this unhealthy time of year. Still, no one is prepared to learn that Grayling was poisoned with mustard gas in the middle of a crowded train compartment. As Inspector Holly tracks down the other passengers, he learns that each has a story to tell. But will it be enough to capture a killer? Continue reading “Somebody at the Door (1943) by Raymond Postgate”