Thursday, January 2, 2014

DO EVIL IN RETURN by Margaret Millar

Do Evil in Return (1950) is the first Margaret Millar book I've read.

Dr. Charlotte Keating refuses to perform an abortion for Violet O'Gorman.

Unbeknownst to Dr. Keating, Violet didn't come to her by accident. Charlotte Keating is more involved in Violet's life than she can imagine.

Later that night, Charlotte tries to find Violet. Instead she meets three old men who live in the same downtrodden boarding house as Violet. All three end up dead.

When Violet's body washes up on the shore, Dr. Keating decides to investigate. What she uncovers involves her intimately.

For me, this book had a Southern flavor, especially in its ending. It reminded me of something William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, or Carson McCullers might write. (Millar is not from the South. From what I read, she was originally Canadian.)

Do Evil In Return also made me think of how different many 1950's mystery novels were. They were shorter. They weren't so much like they had been plotted with screenwriting software. And, at least in the case of Do Evil in Return and other similar books, they were more ironic, emotionally intricate, and psychological.

I had read Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer books, but I had never read Margaret Millar.  Millar was Macdonald's wife, a well-known mystery writer who preceded her husband in the craft.

Over the last few years, I've searched for reasonably-priced used Margaret Millar books. (Some out-of-print writers deserve to be republished, perhaps as e-books.) Finally, I stumbled on this recently-published two-book compilation.

I'm thankful for the blogging friend who highly recommended Margaret Millar. I have another book in this volume to read. Then I'll go back to looking for more.


Brian Busby said...

Not at all surprised to hear that Millar was recommended to you, Joe. She has yet to disappoint this reader. Incidentally, I think An Air that Kills is the very best of the eight or so I've read to date. Recommended most highly!

Joe Barone said...

My problem has been finding the books. At least once, I ordered a used Millar book and found it had already been sold. I wish she were reprinted in e-book format. I also feel that way about Upfield's Bony books. --Joe.

Brian Busby said...

I hear you, Joe. At least you have the Stark House bind-up. Beast in View is in print in the UK. Sadly, neither is available to we in Canada, Millar's home and native land.

Long overdue for a revival, I say.

Melwyk said...

I agree that Millar needs to be republished! It's so hard to find her books even near the city that she came from in Canada -- I've loved the ones I've read thus far and am always looking for more.

Kelly Robinson said...

The plot sounds nice, but the cover art is terrible. The garish neon—even the font—is a real turn-off. I've learned not to judge by the cover, but this one is such a disaster that I wouldn't look twice.

Joe Barone said...

Kelly, I agree about the cover. It looked to me like an attempt to recreate the 1950's type covers. I wouldn't want to go back to the 1950's sexism. We struggle enough with that even today.

Brian and Melwyk, Maybe if enough of us just quietly say we would buy Millar in e-book or a modern reprint format, that will motivate those who hold the copyrights to consider making the books more available.

Again, I would like to see the same thing done with Arthur Upfield too.