Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Pocket Book 662, Copyright 1947

I have aways heard fine things about this story and after passing it over may times to read something else, I finally got around to it. It's a strong psychological thriller, with a fine dose of mystery. The story of upper-class Lucia Holley obsessively protecting her family from scandal during WWII.

"And all that had happen to her would be, must be, pushed down, out of sight; the details of daily living would come like falling leaves to cover it."

While her husband is away at war, Lucia Holley is left with the responsibility of caring for her teenage children and her husband's father. These are the days of rationing coupons, shortages and lonely letters to loved ones in war. She is approached by a blackmailer that has some scandalous letters written by her daughter to an older man. Lucia, unable to pay the amount, starts a lonely struggle to do anything to protect her family. There is a killing and later a murder, which is related to the blackmail attempt. Lucia is spiraling with worry and panic as her involvement deepens.

The story is fast paced and reads almost like a play. The strength of the novel is Holding's ability to create magnificent characters. She is able to bring out Lucia's relationships with these characters and these grab you. Lucia has dramatic interactions with her daughter, the colored cook Sibyl, the policeman Levy and especially with the mysterious blackmailer Martin Donnelly. Not a hardboiled novel, but a strong suspenseful mystery like many written in the 40s.

Usually the female authors I read have male characters as protagonists in their crime stories. I was always stuck on Leigh Brackett, Dorothy Hughes, the Jim Sader novels by Dolores Hitchens. I was presently surprised with the characters in "The Blank Wall," especially Lucia Holley and Martin Donnelly, and I be looking forward to reading more from Elisabeth Sanxay Holding.

Note: Two movies based on this novel. "The Reckless Moment" (1949) and "The Deep End." (2001)

1 comment:

Frank Loose said...

StarkHouse has published four ESH books, all doubles. So there are eight of her novels available in four nice new editions.
--- Frank