Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Fine Old Mystery- Mabel Seeley's "The Listening House"

With the exceptions of Josephine Tey and Donna Leon, I prefer American mystery writers. English country house crime is not noir enough for me. Give me Chandler, and Ron Faust, and Ross McDonald. And though I have only read one Mabel Seeley, I find "The Listening House" dark enough for my taste.

The heroine of this mystery is no detective. She is a one time department store worker who loses her job over inserting an "L" into the word "save" in a newspaper ad. Forced to seek out cheaper lodging, and reduced to taking temp work, she moves into a boarding house run by an old woman named Mrs.Garr. Mrs. Garr has a history, as does her house and most of her tenants. To write any more of the plot would spoil it for those who might read it.

"The Listening House" was written in 1938. My copy, a Doubleday Crime Club Classic, was published in 1953. It was my parents' book, but I made off with it, and it has moved around with me for decades. I have read it over and over. Though the story takes place in the Depression, it is very modern. Its themes of lost innocence, corruption, and retribution are timeless. And the story's Everywoman heroine knows no more than we do. Reader and Character find out the sad truth together.

An old hardcover copy is available at Amazon for $5.00.


Out on the prairie said...

Wondered if you ever read any Jimmy Breslin.I had a hard time putting him down.

betsy said...

I never have read Breslin's novels, though I have seen his columns. I did not know he wrote mysteries. Interesting-