Patti Abbott has kindly invited me to talk about another Forgotten Book of merit. My choice for today is Woman of Straw, by Catherine Arley. Which I bet not many people remember!
Translated by Mervyn Savill, this French suspense novel was published in
England by the Collins Crime Club in 1957. It is to my mind much more
effective than Arley's interesting but ultimately unsatisfactory Dead Man's
Bay. Like so much of the work produced by Arley's brilliant contemporaries
Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the story has a definite filmic quality;
it comes as no surprise to learn that in 1964, the novel was turned into a
movie, with a starry cast including Sean Connery, Gina Lollobrigida and
Ralph Richardson. Reputedly, the film earned Connery - who had just
completed the first two Bond movies - his first million dollar pay check.
The screenplay seems to have differed greatly from the source material, but
reviews suggest it is worth watching, although at the time of writing I have
not been able to track it down.
I can, however, recommend Arley's book. The
premise is intriguing: Hildegarde Meisner responds to an advertisement
placed by a millionaire seeking a female companion with a view to marriage
and soon finds herself conspiring to become the rich man's wife - and
heiress, should he die. Hildegarde is a woman on the make, but nevertheless
she attracts the reader's sympathy as she finds herself enmeshed in an
ingenious criminal scheme, with wheelchair-bound Carl Richmond at its heart.
The mystery is gripping and its resolution dark.