Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Escape the Night - M. G. Eberhart

First published 1945; cover shown is the 1952 Collins Crime Club (UK) hardcover edition.

Set on the coast of California during WWII, this murder mystery focuses on the ties of friendship and family. Serena "Sissy" March returns home from her job in New York partly because a friend of her sister's had urged her to, "because something is going to happen", and partly because Jem Daly would be there, her teenage crush from four years before.

Sissy returns to the same group of friends, but she senses something is wrong. On the day after she returns home her brother-in-law's aunt is murdered, with Sissy unknowingly just metres away. When a second murder is committed just moments before Sissy enters a house to meet with the victim, the police focus their attention squarely on Sissy.

Amanda, Sissy's beautiful older sister, is a self-centred, odious woman (my view of her, anyway) who enjoys flirting with her friend's husbands and encouraging the men who come in contact with her - Jem included - to worship her apparently "irresistible" self. Amanda's own husband, Sutton, knows exactly what's happening but is besotted by his wife and forgives her and his friends for their affairs.

I found this novel to be the usual enjoyable-but-not-brilliant suspense/mystery that writers like Eberhart, Roberts Rinehart and Wentworth liked to churn out. Sissy and Jem's romance seemed unbelievable to me, and I spent most of the second half of the book wanting to slap some sense into both Amanda for being so cruel to her sister and Sissy for sitting there and taking it. But I did enjoy the descriptions of the Californian coast - it added the perfect atmosphere for the murders and the hunt for the killer.

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