Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Beast in View: Review
Beast in View is a suspenseful psychological thriller by Margaret Millar. Winner of the 1956 Edgar Award for Best Novel and also named one of the Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time by the Mystery Writers of America, the novel may be a bit dated in its views of homosexuality and use of certain psychological terms but it still packs quite a punch.
At thirty, Helen Clarvoe may be rich but she is lonely. Her only visitors are the staff at the hotel where she lives and her only phone calls come from a stranger. A stranger whose quiet, compelling voice lures the aloof and financially secure Miss Clarvoe into a world of pornography, vengeance, madness and murder...A stranger who winds up being not so unknown after all. And soon Miss Clarvoe is not the only one to receive the disturbing phone calls--her mother and brother become targets as well.
Miss Clarvoe calls upon the family lawyer to help her track down the voice on the phone. At first Paul Blackshear is reluctant to get involved, but something about Miss Clarvoe and the atmosphere surrounding her pulls him in. He finds himself following a trail through a modeling school and a photography studio which eventually leads him to an old school friend of Miss Clarvoe's--Evelyn Merrick. One time best friend and, more recently, short-term wife of Helen's brother Douglas. Has Evelyn decided that she must take revenge for Helen's supposed betrayal and her unfulfilled marriage?
Millar weaves a very convincing tale of the disintegrating mind. She plainly shows her hand--revealing the seeds that will grow into the full-fledged psychological trauma and yet she still fooled me. I didn't see the final twist coming and I should have. It was all there. A masterful story that fully deserved the Edgar--and fully deserves to be read today for the classic it is. Four stars.