I've mentioned several times my admiration for the crime writing of Margaret Millar. She was, in my opinion, one of the best crime writers of the second half of the last century, and it's a shame that her reputation has faded somewhat, although that - sadly - is a fate common to many fine writers, as well as some who aren't quite so good. Happily, Pushkin Vertigo are reintroducing her work to readers of today, and when they asked me for a blurb, I was happy to oblige.
The book they sent to me for comment was Vanish in an Instant. It first appeared in 1952, at a time when she was moving away from her earlier, rather humorous stories, to crime novels which probed the well-springs of violence with subtlety and insight. The story starts at a point where Virginia Barkeley has been accused of murdering her lover, an unpleasant fellow called Margolis. Her mother brings in a young lawyer called Meecham, and he soon finds someone else confessing to the crime.
But Meecham isn't satisfied. The man who claims to have killed Margolis is seriously ill, and Meecham suspects he has an ulterior motive of some kind for making his confession. He begins to dig into the case, and starts to unravel a tangled web of multiple deceptions. As is often the case with Millar, there's a confusion about identity which plays a key part in the plot. It's a device I like, and she handles it very capably, time and again.
Meecham is in some ways a forerunner of her later protagonist, Tom Aragon. A cussed but likeable amateur sleuth, as he investigates, he also finds love. This isn't Millar at her absolute peak, but she was on her way up the ladder as she was writing this book, and there are plenty of good lines, as well as a plot pleasing enough to satisfy fans of the traditional mystery. Well worth reading. I'm glad Pushkin Vertigo have brought it back to the shelves.