Seeing as I wrote two papers during my time as a Masters student about domestic suspense in film, I couldn’t wait to read these stories. And I was not disappointed. Editor Sarah Weinman has done a fine job of sifting through so many tales and giving us a curated taste of various styles. Some stories are blunt, while others are more psychological. All of them share a female character who, while not entirely innocent, is still sympathetic. We understand her, even if we don’t like her. And all of this suspense is built up through the most mundane aspects of daily life, in the most mundane of places: home.
In A Nice Place To Stay, Tyre explores the idea of what makes a place a home. And what will someone do to find one, and keep it? Even when it is less than ideal.
But that house we lived in! Those walls couldn’t have been dirtier if they’d been smeared with soot and the plumbing was stubborn as a mule. My left foot stayed sore from having to kick the pipe underneath the kitchen sink to get the water to run through. … Though I did all the laundry I gave him clean sheets and clean pajamas on every third day and I think it was my will power alone that made a begonia bloom in the dark back room where Mr. Williams stayed. ~Loc. 437 of 3908
As the story goes on, the reader realizes that the narrator is not quite what we thought — yet is still sympathetic.
In Louisa, Please Come Home, the narrator is a more self-centered individual, with a somewhat egotistical voice:
It’s funny how no one pays any attention to you at all. There were hundreds of people who saw me that day, and even a sailor who tried to pick me up in the movie, and yet no one really saw me. ~Loc. 670 of 3908
And in Shirley Jackson fashion, the tables are turned in a most unexpected way for the young narrator.
Weinman presents the book with a great introduction. She highlights the importance of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine for initially giving voice (and ink) to many of these domestic stories. She writes:
EQMM made room for tales of wives struggling with poisonous marriages, daughters seeking to escape parental high expectations, elderly women neglected and at the behest of others, and teachers, nurses and social workers who felt shackled by their work.
When World War II ended the men came home, the social order of the day was restored, with men returning to their absent lives and jobs as family providers. Or at least that’s what was supposed to happen. ~Loc. 90 of 3908
There are so many more passages I want to quote, but you must read it for yourself. Following this fantastic introduction are the following stories.
The Heroine Patricia Highsmith
A Nice Place to Stay Nedra Tyre
Louisa, Please Come Home Shirley Jackson
Lavender Lady Barbara Callahan
Sugar and Spice Vera Caspary
Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree Helen Nielsen
Everybody Needs a Mink Dorothy B. Hughes
The Purple Shroud Joyce Harrington
The Stranger in the Car Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
The Splintered Monday Charlotte Armstrong
Lost Generation Dorothy Salisbury Davis
The People Across the Canyon Margaret Millar
Mortmain Miriam Allen deFord
A Case of Maximum Need Celia Fremlin
Reader, be warned. There is little to do with apron strings or family recipes here, unless they’re being used for a dastardly purpose. In this book, June Cleaver just might live up to her name.
Be sure to visit the companion site at www.domesticsuspense.com.
Many thanks to Lindsay at Penguin. Read via NetGalley review copy.
27 Aug 2013
7.75 x 5.23in
18 – AND UP