Wilma Wyatt and Amy Kellogg take a trip to Mexico City. Though they have been friends for years, they are very different and don’t always agree on much of anything. Wilma has a forceful personality while Amy is more meek and usually accommodating.
The hotel where Wilma and Amy are staying employs a maid by the name of Consuela Gonzales who speaks perfect English, yet pretends to know only Spanish. She frequently steals small items from the hotel guests and listens to their conversations from behind a wall in the broom closet.
When Wilma purchases an expensive and heavy silver box, Amy is curious. When she realizes that her own husband’s initials are carved into the box, Amy becomes even more curious…
The two women have drinks in the hotel bar with a fellow San Franciscan barfly. They both become quite inebriated and return to their room.
Consuela is listening from the broom closet when she hears a scream coming from Wilma and Amy’s room. She enters the room only to find Wilma has fatally jumped from the balcony onto the street below…
When Amy’s husband, Rupert, learns of Wilma’s death, he travels to Mexico City to accompany his wife home. Amy’s brother, Gill Brandon, is very close to his sister and dislikes Rupert. He is very concerned about her.
The day after they return to San Francisco, Rupert tells Gill that Amy has left him and taken her small Scottie dog with her. Gill is happy that Amy has left Rupert, but he doesn’t for one minute believe that Amy would leave without discussing the situation with him first. His misgivings grow daily and he finally hires a private detective named Elmer Dodd to find his sister Amy and bring her home…
Though this novel was originally published in 1959, the narrative is constructed with such skill and sharp characterization as to render it timeless. Yes, there are references made to the time period that might seem a bit dated but they in no way influence the pace or the substance of the story. The late fifties were a time when people were invariably judged by their appearance and social standing even more so than they are today.
Margaret Millar teases the reader with hints, yet holds her cards very close to her chest. She writes with shrewd observations of human weakness and motivations.
Millar’s skillful writing is given validation by the fact that she was awarded the Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Mystery Writers of America.
I recommend this novel to all readers who enjoy well-written, well paced mystery fiction with special recommendations to those who appreciate classic mystery novels.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Pushkin Press.
224 pages Published 03/10/2019 by Pushkin Press ISBN: 9781782275756
Margaret Millar (1915-1994) was the author of 27 books and a masterful pioneer of psychological mysteries and thrillers. Born in Kitchener, Ontario, she was educated there and in Toronto. She moved to the United States after marrying Kenneth Millar (better known under the pen name Ross Macdonald). They resided for decades in the city of Santa Barbara, which was often utilized as a locale in her later novels under the pseudonyms of San Felice or Santa Felicia.
In 1956 Millar won the Edgar Allan Poe Awards, Best Novel award for Beast in View. In 1965 she was awarded the Woman of the Year Award by the Los Angeles Times. In 1983 she was awarded the Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America in recognition of her lifetime achievements.