Beast in View won Margaret Millar the Edgar Award for the best mystery of 1956, the third year the award was given. Set in the seedier parts of 1950s Los Angeles, this psychological thriller involves a reclusive young heiress and her dysfunctional family members, all being harassed by threatening telephone calls.
Millar followed the hardboiled examples of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, but did it with a feminine twist. In particular, she gave her female characters more edge, as shows even in this short snippet:
June knocked on the door and waited, swaying a little, partly because the martini had been double, and partly because a radio down the hall was playing a waltz and waltzes always made her sway. Back and forth her scrawny little body moved under the cheap plaid coat.Although the themes are a little stale and most of the characters now look like noir stereotypes – back alley pornographers, daytime drinkers, and closeted gays are just a few examples – the book is more than campy, vintage fun. There is a lot going on and the plot has some decent twists to it. Every one of the major characters, and a few of the minor ones, seem at one point or another like they could be the villain.
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Beast in View counts as one of my books for the Vintage Mystery Challenge.