Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Listening Walls - Margaret Miller

Arguably the biggest mystery about Margaret Miller is how she disappeared from view for so long  (it's no mystery why Pushkin are republishing her). She is amazingly good and 'The Listening Walls' is a great example of all the reasons why.

Wilma Wyatt and Amy Kellogg are on holiday in Mexico City. Wilma is coming out of a divorce and if she isn't already having one is definitely on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Amy seems to be the long suffering friend who's come to keep her company, but there are unsettling undercurrents between the two women.

Amy is sharper than she appears to Wilma, who can't stop taunting her, and any chance of the holiday being a success looks destined to fail after a confrontation with a drunk Wilma after Amy finds she's bought an expensive present for her husband. All of this is overheard by Consuela, a maid in the hotel who's eavesdropping from a broom closet.

Before long Wilma is dead on the pavement after a fall (or was it a push) from the hotel balcony, Amy is in hospital with a head wound, and nobody can quite agree on what happened. Then somewhere between Mexico City and San Francisco, Amy disappears. Her brother, Gill, suspects her husband, Rupert of doing away with her and calls in private detective Elmer Dodd.

The real mystery at the centre of this book is Amy. Who is she? On the surface she seems to be an ordinary enough well to do woman, in a conventional marriage that despite Wilma's unexpected present appears sound enough. On the other hand there's a strange relationship with her older brother, Gill. He sounds like a controlling influence in her life, and maybe one that she resents, but there's something else there as well which it isn't easy to define.

Helene, Gill's wife, has a real antipathy towards Amy, and it's never entirely clear if she even fully understands why, but it's her attitude that makes the reader uneasily aware that they might be reaching for the wrong conclusions. 

Dodd solves the mystery he was hired to unravel, and Miller answers most of the questions she's posed in a half expected final twist, but in such a way that there's still uncertainty - the games are definitely not played out. I have a couple more Margaret Miller's to read which I am very much looking forward to. As she was the author of 27 books I'm also very hopeful that more will come back into print. 


  1. I read this recently and loved it. I'm read another couple of hers, all really excellent. Yes it's a great mystery why she has fallen out of sight - hooray for Pushkin.

    1. This was the second one I've read, and particularly good. I love the ambiguity of Amy.