Among the many outstanding authors of today's mysteries, you will find a great many very successful and talented women. As with their male counterparts, they write crime fiction in all its many sub-genres. But many of them write compelling stories in the area we might call "domestic suspense." Now, editor Sarah Weinman has anthologized fourteen marvelous stories written by women who essentially created that sub-genre. The result is Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense, and it is very much worth your while. It is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you may listen to that complete review by clicking here.
Some of the names of these authors should be familiar to lovers of classic mysteries: Shirley Jackson, Patricia Highsmith, Vera Caspary, Margaret Millar. Others may be less well-known. All are amazing writers, who were able to find the suspense and terror hiding among the apparent comforts of home. Whether it is Helen Nielsen writing of the terrifying middle-of-the-night phone calls tormenting one woman, or Charlotte Armstrong showing what happens when an elderly woman tries to uncover a family secret, or Nedra Tyre writing of the desperate lengths one woman will go to in order to find a sense of security in her life - these are brilliant stories of psychological suspense, usually rooted in seeming domestic tranquility.
In addition to choosing these marvelous stories, Sarah Weinman contributes a thoughtful and illuminating introduction to Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, along with a brief introduction to each story. If you enjoy some of today's classic suspense writers, such as Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott and Tana French, you really owe it to yourself - and to them - to explore some of the earlier writers who helped to create the genre in which they all excel. These are short masterpieces, and I suspect that at least a few of them will haunt your memory long after you finish reading them.
(NOTE: These comments are a brief version of a longer view which I contributed to Sally Powers' excellent I Love a Mystery Newsletter. She and the publisher, Penguin, kindly provided me with a copy for review.)