Monday, June 25, 2012

51. Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

This is an earlier Margaret Millar, a pretty classic hardboiled whodunnit filled with all the pathetic, unsavoury, desperate characters a reader could want.  In this one, the "detective" is a lawyer hired by the financially comfortable mother of the accused.  The book, though has a semi-omniscient viewpoint and though the lawyer, Meecham, leads the investigation, we spend a lot of time in many of the other characters' heads.  The daughter, married to a sensible doctor husband, is not sensible herself and was found passed out drunk, covered in blood in the cabin of a married man who was known in town to be a playboy.  The married man is in the cabin also.  Somebody stuck him in the neck several times with a kitchen knife.

Things get very complicated and very interesting, as each knew character, as sad and broken as they often are, are worth reading about.  What I found really interesting about this book is how much it reminded me of Ross Macdonald.  This is early in her crime career, but after she had written a few gothic thrillers and I don't know if she was finding her voice or if her husband was the one finding his voice.  She edited (and I believe typed up) his books so there was definitely an interplay between them.  I wonder how that worked out.  They must have had a solid foundation of a marriage to not get into terrible competition over their writing.

This was a really enjoyable read, but not an exemplary Millar book.  It didn't stand out for me like some of her others (Beast in View, in particular).  The one really weird thing in this book is when the protagonist and a woman fall in love.  It's so sudden and they don't even kiss or anything.  They've only met a few times and then suddenly they both admit that they are in love with each other and get all goofy and swoony.  I guess that's how it worked in the weird '50s.

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