Friday, November 3, 2017

Fire Will Freeze: Review

Margaret Millar, well-known for her psychological mysteries, ventures into dark parody in Fire Will Freeze (1944). She gathers together a disparate group of ski enthusiasts traveling by snowbus and bound for a snow lodge in French Canada. Among the passengers is the moneyed but manless Isabel Seton who has an inordinate curiosity about her companions; a rough adventurer with a pistol in his pocket, a mad poet and his doting patroness, a willful young woman and her wayward father, a couple of sets of honeymooner (some more honeyed than others), and a burlesque artist with a knack for self-preservation. When their snowbus breaks down in a snow storm and their bus driver disappears, the passengers set out to find where he's gone and (hopefully) find shelter.

They seek refuge at Rudd House--home of the insane Miss Frances Rudd and Floraine, the companion who has been hired to care for her. Before they even reach the front door someone takes a potshot at them with a rifle, but they'll soon find out that this is the least of their worries. During the night, a dead cat will be left in the bed that Isabel shares with Gracie (the burlesque dancer), the cut up remains of the bus driver's uniform will be discovered, someone will freeze to death after fall from a balcony, someone else will be strangled, and another will be shot at close range. Isabel spends her time snooping in the dark, bantering with Charles Crawford (while trying to convince him to help get to the bottom of the mystery), and digging up clues that don't seem to mean anything. She gets more work done on the mystery when she teams up with Gracie (when she can get Gracie to come out from behind the barricaded bedroom door)

If there’s a mystery I want to keep it a mystery. The only thing to do in a place like this is to get inside a room with somebody you can trust, put the furniture in front of the door and be prepared to yell like hell....

And eventually they sort it a way.

The mystery and psychological suspense may not be quite what Millar fans are used to, but the humor more than makes up for it. The dynamic duo of Isabel and Gracie are great fun--it's a treat to watch the street-wise Gracie teach the "old-maidish" Isabel a thing or two. The dark, lonely house--isolated and snow-bound--is played to the hilt with madmen and madwomen roaming the halls, screams in the night, and flickering candles everywhere. And nobody knows if the crazy lady is the killer or not. An enjoyable romp through murderous comedy. ★★

Sergio at Tipping My Fedora and Patrick at At the Scene of the Crime have both reviewed this as well and you should definitely take a peek at what they have to say.

[Finished on 10/29/17]

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