Friday, 4 April 2014

Forgotten Book - Rose's Last Summer

Margaret Millar is not, thankfully, a forgotten author, but I think it's fair to say that Rose's Last Summer is not among her best-known books. In fact, I've had a copy for years, and never bothered to read it - possibly because the title didn't entice me. So I think this novel, first published in 1952, can definitely be regarded as a Forgotten Book - not least forgotten by myself. But I finally got round to reading it while in Norway, and I'm really glad I did. It's terrific.

Rose French is a faded actress who has worked her way through five husbands and all her money. She is now lodging with a rather unpleasant landlady, and has made a friend of a nice young man called Frank, who is a sort of social worker. When the news comes that she has been found dead in the grounds of a house belonging to a family with which she had no obvious connection, a puzzled detective seeks Frank's help in the task of finding out what became of Rose.

The story develops in an unusual way, but as usual with Millar there are excellent twists. These are not, perhaps, as difficult to anticipate as in her finest books, but they are still pretty good. For a long time, it's not clear that this is really a detective story, and is certainly not a conventional book, but it ticks the whodunit box as well as plenty of others.

What is so admirable about this book, though, is the quality of Millar's writing. Her descriptions of people and places are incisive, witty and original. Time and again I found myself admiring the way she can capture someone in a couple of precise phrases. Her literary gifts, as much as her skill at concocting excellent plots, help to explain why she is regarded as one of the finest female crime writers - perhaps the finest ever to come from Canada. I have been a Millar fan for many years, and can't quite believe how long it took me to read this very good novel.

6 comments:

Christine said...

She is so good. I remember getting a real jolt when I read Beast in View, genuinely scary.

John said...

Wish I has read this *before* I had seen it. I can imagine the book would hold some surprises for me. It was adapted for the 1960s American TV series "Thriller" hosted by Boris Karloff. Veteran cinema actress Mary Astor (probably best known for Brigid in Huston's The Maltese Falcon) played the pivotal role of Rose and did a fine job. But the big surprise in the plot is rather obvious in this small screen version.

neer said...

I have not read any of the author's works. But now I feel like doing it.

Martin Edwards said...

Chrissie, have you read A Stranger in My Grave as well? Brilliant twist at the end.

Martin Edwards said...

John - interesting. I'd quite like to see the TV version, though I doubt it's avaialble here in the UK.

Martin Edwards said...

Neer, I recommend MM unreservedly!