Saturday, October 27, 2018

31. Do Evil in Return by Margaret Millar

I had a bit of a hiccup on my fall 2018 reading resurgence.  Was 18 pages into a nice '70s Eric Ambler paperback when I realized I had already read it.  This threw me off and left me feeling that the other books on my on-deck shelf were not appealling.  I decided to go with a sure thing and pick the last Margaret Millar on the shelf.  Even then, I was doubtful about my ability to keep up the pace.  Until I started reading. It helped that this is a short one, around 120 pages.  More than that, Millar just sucks you right into the uneasy world of post-WWII, Truman-era central west coast America and all its hidden darkness.

The first thing I really like about Evil in Return is the protagonist.  Charlotte Keating is a doctor, a general practitioner, competent, strong and capable of separating her emotions from her work.  She keeps them perhaps a little too separate, as her affair with a married man starts to seem like real love.  The story starts with her meeting a desperate young woman from Oregon who wants an abortion.  She had a fling in a hotel room with a traveling businessman and now her abusive husband wants nothing to do with her.  Keating refuses, but is sympathetic and later goes to track her down at the boarding house where she is staying.

There things gets seedy and complicated and lead of course to murder.  Again, I got caught up in Millar's delicious trap, enjoying the characters, the situation and unsettled unease around everything and trying to figure out who these characters really were.  I was actually almost disappointed until she slapped me upside the head hard with her incredibly tight plotting.  She's just a master.  Again, she was well recognized in her time but seems to have disappeared today.  If you find this one, get it and read it.

Here's a better review with some great covers, especially the back cover of the Dell Key edition with the awesome map and illustrations.

1 comment:

Brian Busby said...

Olman, you flatter. I always enjoy reading others on Millar, and your review is no exception. It'll be really interesting to hear your opinion of An Air That Kills, which I think of as my favourite of all her books. I don't think my judgement is swayed by its Canadian setting, but admit that I'm particularly drawn to those set on this side of the border.