Book Review: The Listening House

Having surpassed my Goodreads challenge for the year, I’m hoping to spend more time writing during the upcoming fall and winter months. That means I’ll have less time for reading, but like any bookworm, I can’t resist adding to that TBR list.

Today’s review is a book written and published in 1938 – something a bit different from my usual reads.


After losing her copywriting job, young Gwynne Dacres seeks a place to live when she stumbles upon Mrs. Garr’s old boarding house. Despite the gruff landlady and an assortment of shifty tenants, Gwynne rents a room for herself. She spends her first few nights at 593 Trent Street tensely awake, the house creaking and groaning as if listening to everything that happens behind its closed doors.

A chain of chilling events leads to the gruesome discovery of a mutilated body in the basement kitchen, dead of unknown circumstances. Was it an accident or murder? Under the red-black brick façade of the old house on Trent Street, Gwynne uncovers a myriad of secrets, blackmail, corruption, and clues of a wicked past. As she closes in on the truth, the cold, pale hands of death reach for Gwynne in the night…

My Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I’ve read enjoyed several Agatha Christie books, so when I learned of The Listening House, I thought it might be an enjoyable read. I’ll preface my review by saying the book was written and first published in 1938 and realized the writing would be different than what we’re accustomed to today.

The main character, Gwynne Dacres is an out of work copywriter who moves into a rooming house run by an eccentric old woman, Harriet Garr. Mrs. Garr believes her tenants are snooping through her things and she has no qualms in telling Gwynne she doesn’t believe in banks.

On her first night there, Gwynne has trouble sleeping, and she believes the house is “listening.” Shortly after her arrival, things begin happening. Gwynne discovers the body of a murdered man near the street back of the house. Next, Mrs. Garr turns up missing and is later found dead. But did she die by natural causes or was she murdered?

Someone attacks Gwynne, and she gets involved with the investigation. Who in the house had a motive to kill Mrs. Garr? Will the mystery be solved before Gwynne becomes a victim?

Positives. The author kept me guessing the killer’s identity. That’s always a plus for me. I had my suspicions, but the killer wasn’t who I thought it would be. Seeley weaved in a nearly twenty-year-old suicide of a young woman that had links to several of the characters. Nicely done to keep the suspense flowing.

Negatives. This book was not a page-turner. It took me more than a week to read it. There was a large cast of characters, and I sometimes had trouble keeping track of who was who. The storyline was intriguing, but it dragged on way too long. By the end of the book, I was just ready for it to be over. Although I realize the book was written in a different era, I cringed whenever one of the male characters referred to Gwynne as “baby.” Thank goodness this sort of thing wouldn’t be tolerated today.

In my opinion, the writing didn’t live up to the skill level of Agatha Christie, but readers who like cozy mysteries set during the 1930s would probably enjoy it. Three stars from me. Didn’t hate it. Didn’t love it.

26 thoughts on “Book Review: The Listening House

  1. This has got to be the biggest year for me with my Goodreads challenge – had no idea I’d get so many books in this year. And I’m still behind on reading! I like the idea of an older setting, but taking over a week to read it tells me it may not be one I’d jump on right away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read more book this year than I have in a while. The down side is I haven’t done a lot of writing. I still have a mile high TBR list.

      I don’t mind slow burns or older settings, but this one drug out too long for my taste.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m getting close to my Goodread challenge. Congrats on hitting yours 🙂 Thanks for sharing your review. I’ve found dome of the other books can drag a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s fascinating reading books from another era. If anything, it demonstrates how much we all have changed. And, it shows us that there is a plus side to technology. Gosh, I can’t imagine being dependent upon a typewriter. Thank you for sharing your insightful review, Joan. Much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Joan, this is not a book I will read. I do like Agatha Christie [but not often or I start guessing the killers to soon] and a read a few cozies now and then, but it is not a genre I gravitate to often. This one sounds like I would put it aside before finishing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s so interesting when we pick up a book published in the 30s or 40s. It’s the same for me when I read Erskine Caldwell. I find myself thinking, “there is no way this book would get published today.” But I do enjoy reading classic authors and I always learn something. Thank you for sharing this one, Joan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep thinking one of these days, I’ll read some of the classics. I tried twice to read Last of the Mohicans and couldn’t make it past the first chapter. Maybe I’ll have better luck with some others.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a shame this didn’t quite deliver. Sometimes it’s a challenge reading books written in earlier decades. A really insightful review, Joan. I definitely think I’ll pass on this one!
    P.S…..I’d cringe at those “baby” references too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I personally know a 51-year-old man who calls his 32-year-old wife “baby” all the time. It’s cringeworthy, but it still happens in this day and age.

    I wonder if it was an era-issue with the book or if it was the book itself that made it so slow. I’ll probably skip this one, but I’ll be wondering about that.

    Thanks, Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that does still happen. IMO, it’s not so bad for a husband and wife, but for a man to call an unmarried woman that…

      I found the book on sale. I wouldn’t recommend paying full price, but I do think a lot of the slowness was related to the era in which it was written.

      Liked by 1 person

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