Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Stranger in My Grave - Margaret Millar

First published 1960; cover shown is the 1984 Penguin Books (UK) paperback reprint. Cover photograph by David Fairman. 224 pages.

When Daisy Harker dreams of stumbling across her own tombstone - complete with a date of death some five years in the past - she is unable to forget it. Going against the wishes of her mother and her husband, Daisy retains the services of a Mexican private detective, Steven Pinata. Her aim? To recreate the day of December 2, 1955: the day she dreamt she died.

Having spent her life falling in with the wishes of her mother and later her husband, Daisy is taking a radical step by continuing with her apparently "crazy" scheme. It's a radical step which quickly bears fruit, with Pinata and Daisy uncovering a strange, sordid tale of suicide, infidelity and an illegitimate child. Told four years earlier that she is sterile, the knowledge that her husband has fathered a child with the local Mexican floozy shatters Daisy's faith in him.

When Daisy's alcoholic father arrives in town, a lifetime of deceit is about to be dragged, screaming, into the light. Daisy will discover that she doesn't really know anyone: not herself, her husband or her mother.... and certainly not her father.

Millar continues to amaze me with her writing. Like How Like An Angel (1962), A Stranger in My Grave is told with breathtaking power; an ingenious plot, beautiful words, and Millar's signature punch-in-the-face ending.

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