Monday, January 23, 2023

6. A Stranger in my Grave by Margaret Millar

Again, I have the ghostly feeling that I have read this book before, pre-Fifty Book Challenge.  It's worth a reread (and now I own it in paperback), so no harm done just wish I could confirm it.  This is a rich thriller with multiple layers of narrative and theme going on, all of which get unraveled at an increased pace.  The surface plot is about Daisy Harkin, a young married woman who lives with her successful husband and mother.  From the beginning, she is clearly unhappy, though putting on a smile each morning to keep her husband and mother from worrying about her.  This does not last long as she has a vivid dream about seeing her own gravestone with a specific date from four years earlier.  Convinced that she herself may have died, she starts to obsess about it, not being helped by her supportively denying husband and mother.  We learn that her father ran off years ago only communicating via letter from time to time when he needs money.  He comes back into town again, calling her to pay off a bail bondsman who is also a detective.  This man, Stevens Perata, is also a detective and she hires him to investigate the date on the gravestone in her dream.

At first, she really seems neurotic, although quite firm and clear in her communications with Perata and her mother and husband.  The main plot seems to be about the difficulty of investigating a day in the past (especially pre-computers).  However, some articles from the newspapers microfiche article triggers a denial in Daisy and Perata starts to suspect she isn't just a neurotic housewife with too much time on her hands.  

The plotting in this book is quite a trick as several really interesting and eccentric characters' (Daisy's romantic, con artist dad; Juanita the promiscuous mother of 6; her strict and religious mother, Perata himself) stories start to gradually reveal their connections.  We don't see them all until the final page, literally the last words of the book.  I won't say anymore because the enjoyment is in finding out, but it gets deep and touches on some progressive social themes that are still relevant today.

Here is a review that captures the qualities of this book better than I can.

No comments: