This description may be from another edition of this product. Two women travel together. One mysteriously falls to her death from a balcony in a Mexico City hotel. The other returns to San Francisco and then disappears.
Book Club Review The Listening Walls by Margaret Millar Our book club's book for September 2008 was THE LISTENING WALLS, by Margaret Millar (who, we discovered was the wife of Ken Millar, a/k/a Ross Macdonald). This month we chose our book when we decided that we wanted to read one of the "classic" female writers. We were talking about the way so many mysteries are now written by women, and we wanted to go back and read one of the pioneers. We talked about Christie, Tey, Ngaio Marsh, Christianna Brand, Elizabeth Lemarchand, Amanda Cross, and Dorothy B. Hughes, but we decided on Millar because two of our members gushed about her, and some Internet sites really went on about how great she was, and we felt that she would have the most appeal for the group. It turned out that we had some difficulty getting our hands on the book, but we did manage to find several copies through interlibrary loan, and a few through the Internet. THE LISTENING WALLS is the story of two female friends--one loud and obnoxious, the other mousy and insecure--who go to Mexico for a vacation. The loud obnoxious woman commits suicide--and then the other woman mysteriously disappears. The missing woman's brother suspects that his sister's husband has done away with her, and hires a P.I. to investigate. It is really difficult to give more than these few details because the book is so terrifically plotted and twisty, that to give more would not be fair. I think many of us expected a sort of old-fashioned book that would be a fast read but also one that might have the dusty air of an outmoded mystery novel that wouldn't much appeal to 21st century readers. We were very wrong about that! In the years of our group, we've only read a few books where everyone agreed how much they loved it, and this was one of those books. Millar is an extremely sneaky and devious writer, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. She withholds a lot and steers you down the wrong path time and time again, and we let ourselves be led like dogs! The dynamic between the two women is spot-on, as is the creepy relationship between the missing woman and her brother. Interestingly, the P.I. is a sort of secondary character--the book doesn't follow him exclusively, so THE LISTENING WALLS doesn't read like a P.I. novel. Also interestingly, the men in the club enjoyed the book as much as the women did. (Sometimes there is a gender split, and we usually discuss the reasons, which can be great fun.) We actually found very little to criticize because we all yammered on about how we couldn't put it down and what great fun it was. I guess if we had to criticize, we might say that Millar is very cagey about the details she reveals, which may not seem quite "fair," if you like a lot of fair play in the mystery. But we thought that this trait was exactly what made the book so suspenseful, and made it as much a novel of suspense as a murder mystery. In a nutshell: A fabulous book from
If Only All Mysteries Grabbed Like This
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 13 years ago
I picked this book up at the "Friends of The Library" at fort mason yesterday, San Francisco. This evening I finished reading its final page 236 and just shook my head at its ending. What a great read, so crisp and clear for a mystery novel that dates from 1959. You have the descriptive writing that adds so much to a simple story. You have the characters that jump right out of the pages at you even though you may know little of the period. You have 1950's San Francisco being identified by places and streets which you can imagine still existing today. And of course you have the mystery, who, where, when and why? I found some very quotable paragraphs within this book's pages. Lines like: "deleted due to possible spoiler content" As for the story its very simple yet walks you right into a very involved world of characters. Everybody gets into the act. Its the first line in the book that told me I would enjoy this book. The line reads: "From her resting place in the broom closet Consuela could hear the two American ladies in room 404 arguing." Also, the cover of the book, a painting of a pretty Mexican lady in traditional Mexican peasant attire with bracelets and hoop earrings, sneakily listening outside a door. The cover stirred in me all kinds of curious questions. Who's she sneaking up on? What is it she hears from the other side of the door? Why such a pretty girl would need to sneak around outside doors? What makes her so nosy that she listens through walls? I suppose it being a quick read attributed to my enjoyment of it, but I also admired the writer's conservative way of using words with such description. Margaret Millar is a great story teller and weaver of mystery and suspense. And to think I'm not much of a mystery story reader. Thanks Margaret for teaching me a thing or two about story telling.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 19 years ago
This fairly obscure thriller writer -- wife of Ross MacDonald -- probably deserves wider recognition. "Listening Walls" is a deftly written piece of truly twisted story-telling that becomes harder and harder to put down the longer you read. The last 20 pages turn everything completely upside down, like something out of Philip K. Dick -- and whatever you do, don't read the last sentence ahead of time! Great characters and masterful story-telling, with tantalizing bits of info dropped here and there, and plenty left out to keep you reading till the end. Millar also has some of the finest similes I've read since Raymond Chandler. The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars (my usual enthusiastic rating!) is that I felt that plot was a bit TOO complex and manipulative, as though Millar were pulling too many strings and not giving her characters enough freedom. That's often a problem in the mystery genre, but it doesn't detract from this otherwise highly entertaining piece of work. Recommended.
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