The Listening House by Mabel Seeley
I recently read The Listening House by Mabel Seeley (1938, Doubleday, Triangle Books). It’s a mystery detective thriller type novel that claims to be a classic in the genre. Right there on the front cover. Those are some big claims, book.
I don’t know about “best of the 20th century” only because I don’t have that sort of thorough mystery novel expertise. However, it was a very good book after all.
Our hero Gwynne Dacres is a copywriter out of a job who just needs a place to live. She finds it in the home of a Mrs. Garr, a little old lady with a very dark past. The house has other lodgers, and all of them seem to be shifty in one way or another. And it’s not long until someone dies right outside Gwynne’s window.
Mysterious things keep happening. People rummage through rooms, strange men are seen in the house, and Gwynne never feels quite comfortable. Mrs. Garr goes on a trip, but doesn’t come back – and soon it’s discovered that she never left at all, and has been decaying in the basement for days – her body alone with only her starving pets for company.
Can Gwynne figure out what everyone’s hiding and unravel the mystery of the house and Mrs. Garr’s secret past before the murderer comes back for her?
This was a great book. It held me the entire way through, the characters were engaging, and for once the shoehorned-in love story wasn’t actually that bad. It kept me guessing until the end, and sure enough, I could’ve put it together for myself had I only been a little more clever.
That being said, some parts of the end did seem rather arbitrary. While the murderer was hinted at, the other motivations and identities of other characters were not hinted towards at all, so it was sort of a strange unmasking. But it didn’t take away too much from an otherwise compelling book.
On the back of the book, there’s even an ad for While The Patient Slept, which is the next book I was going to read.
So that’s neat. Man, I wish those prices were still accurate.