Monday, January 20, 2014

AN AIR THAT KILLS by Margaret Millar

Margaret Millar's An Air That Kills (1957) is clearly written and psychologically complex. The two qualities combined make for great reading.

  My plot summary is brief. Ron Galloway gets his best friend's wife pregnant. In a fit of remorse, he commits suicide.

The remainder of the book works through the all-too-real human expressions of good and evil which such a terrible situation exacerbates.

Finally, the book ends in a startling way. 

An Air That Kills is a masterful noir mystery, though my outline doesn't make it seem so.

 Most of the interior expressions are evil. I marked a simple passage-- “In contrast, Dorothy appeared more lively and cheerful, as if she drew some secret nourishment from the woes and afflictions of other people. This was a real banquet: Ron disappeared, Esther deserted, Harry grieving.”

We've all known people like that. In fact, we have probably all known people with the common psychological quirks this book exposes.

It is not that there aren't some good people in the book. It is just that they aren't always the ones you thought they would be.

This book disturbed me. It reminded me of things I've done, things I'm not proud of. It opened people to me in a way that wasn't easy.

I highly recommend this book. No one I've read so far writes quite like Margaret Millar.


She reread the last part of the letter, thinking how simpleminded Harry was to believe that a catastrophe could be caused by any one person. A lot of people were involved, not just the leading characters, but the bit players, the prop man, the stagehands, waiting in the wings.
Your Uncle Charles has that same paranoid streak—you're a cyclic depressive, that's all—it's no wonder the kids are going through a manic phase... Instead of throwing ash trays at each other, the Turees, in the modern manner, threw Oedipus complexes, father fixations and compulsive neuroses.


pattinase (abbott) said...

She is my favorite female writer. More heart than Highsmith, I think, but no less dark.

Joe Barone said...

Without question Millar is an excellent writer.

Brian Busby said...

I was certain that you'd like it, Joe… if 'like' is the right word. It's hard to come away from this book with a spring in one's step.

Joe Barone said...

Brian, No spring in my step after this one. But it was a great book.