Friday, June 01, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Listening Walls - Margaret Millar

A couple of American women from San Francisco are vacationing in Mexico City. Amy Kellogg is married, but her accountant husband Rupert is back home in San Francisco. Amy's lifelong friend Wilma Wyatt is twice divorced and somewhat bitter, and Amy has reason to suspect that Wilma is having an affair with Rupert. After an evening of drinking with an American grifter who is also in Mexico City, Wilma commits suicide by leaping from the balcony of her fourth-floor hotel room.

Or does she?

Summoned by the American embassy, Rupert goes to Mexico City to pick up a distraught Amy and take her back to San Francisco. But they've been home less than a week when Amy disappears, leaving behind a letter saying that no one should try to find her.

Or does she?

I think you can see where this plot is going. THE LISTENING WALLS is one of those "nothing is what it seems" novels, and it takes Amy's worried brother and the private detective he hires to sort everything out.

This is the first book by Margaret Millar that I recall reading, and while this sort of psychological suspense novel isn't my usual sort of thing, I enjoyed it. Millar writes very well, with nice touches of characterization and droll humor, although the old-fashioned technique of hopping around among different points-of-view within the same scene might bother some modern readers. It bothered me a little until I got used to it. Millar's plot twists are also very skillful. Just when you think you've got everything figured out, some new angle comes along, and I really wasn't sure what was going to happen until the very end of the book.

I don't know if I'll read anything else by Millar, at least not any time soon. I have a hard time keeping my attention on books that are slow to develop, no matter how well-written they are. That impatience is my fault, not the author's. But I think THE LISTENING WALLS is a good book, and I'm glad I read it.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Congratulations on the award, James!!

Jerry House said...

Ditto what Patti said.

George said...

Millar certainly knows how to plot. And, I've found her characters compelling.

Elina said...
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Juri said...

You should try at least HOW LIKE AN ANGEL by Millar, James (and congrats for the award!).

James Reasoner said...

I actually have a copy of HOW LIKE AN ANGEL somewhere around here, but I couldn't put my hands on it so I read THE LISTENING WALLS instead. I'm sure I'll read HOW LIKE AN ANGEL eventually.