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…
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.
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