Friday, 6 September 2019

Forgotten Book - The Innocent Mrs Duff

I've mentioned several times my admiration for the pioneering work of Elisabeth Sanxay Holding in the field of domestic suspense. That field is very crowded now, but Holding was writing incisive stories about people under stress in domestic surroundings back in the 30s and 40s, and her work was of high quality. That's certainly true of The Innocent Mrs Duff, which first appeared in 1946.

The protagonist is Jacob Duff, 42, relatively prosperous, and rather handsome, but putting on weight. It quickly becomes clear that he's an extremely discontented man, and a particular focus of his unhappiness is his wife Regina, always known as Reggie. She's his second wife, and half his age. She's pretty and charming, and I waited some time to discover what dark secrets might lie behind the charming exterior. But really, with Reggie, what you see is what you get.

Jacob is a lucky guy, but he doesn't realise it. Worse, he sets about trying to extricate himself from Reggie in a very unwise manner. He starts drinking heavily, while persuading himself that his alcohol intake is moderate. His judgement is erratic, and gets worse, as his behaviour leads to catastrophic consequences.

There are quite a few similarities between this book and the rather less well-known but impressive The Unfinished Crime, not only in terms of the nature of the protagonist (a stupid man, who doesn't appreciate the admirable women around him; Holding's message on this is very clear), but also in terms of plot structure. But there are also enough differences to make both books a rewarding read.

No comments: