Friday, 25 October 2013

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives - review

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, is the rather brilliant title of one of the most interesting anthologies of crime fiction that I've read in a long time. Edited by Sarah Weinman, and published by Penguin, the book collects some fine stories by a number of the finest female writers of suspense fiction in the twentieth century. Weinman's introduction is interesting and incisive, but of course, the meat of the book is in her story selection. And what a good selection it is.

Here we find some famous names, and some forgotten ones too. I was particularly pleased to see a story by Nedra Tyre, an author whose name, I suspect, will be unfamiliar to many. "A Nice Place to Stay" made a great impression on me when I first came across it many years ago - in, as far as I can recall, one of the many fine anthologies edited by Ellery Queen. It inspired me to write a story called "A Job for Life", which eventually appeared in print, and is possibly the earliest of my stories to have done so.

Elisabeth Sanxay Holding is represented by a long and very clever story, almost a novella, called "The Stranger in the Car". I liked the twists in this one, as well as the insightful characterisation. Holding was a gifted writer, but even more talented was Margaret Millar, one of whose all too rare short stories is also included here. And we also have some very fine writers, ranging from the superb Shirley Jackson and the often creepy Patricia Highsmith to the subtle Celia Fremlin and the author of fhat very good story "The Purple Shroud", Joyce Harrington (and no, it was not the inspiration for The Frozen Shroud!)

Reviewers have been quick to heap praise on this book, and I'm with them. Among the most interesting assessments, as you might expect, is one from Jon L. Breen, arguably the finest living crime critic in the US. He notes Weinman's suggestion that the writers she has chosen lacked an editorial champion, but points out that their success (and they were highly regarded in their day, even if most have now faded from view) indicates that the feminist crime writers of the 70s and 80s were not breaking as much fresh ground as is sometimes argued. But what matters most is that the stories in this book represent really good entertainment. I look forward to more anthologies from Sarah Weinman.


J F Norris said...

I read this book in August and thought that the majority of the stories were rather good. Joyce Harrington's was my favorite. I hope to have my own very detialed review up later this weekend. I have a huge backlog of reviews -- oddly enough, all books published this year -- waiting to post.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, John, and I look forward to your review. I know what you mean about backlogs - a pile of books to be read, lots of good blogs that I don't keep up with enough, and so on!

Rick Robinson said...

This sounds like a must have, and I'd not heard of it previously, so thanks, Martin, for the review. A nod from both you and John is enough for me.

The Small Fabric Of My Life said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I am looking for some great short story writers to fill the gap now that I have devoured the short stories of Alice Munro and Muriel Spark.

Kelly Robinson said...

I'm reading more short stories now that I'm playing around with writing some of them. Will give this a look.