Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Strangle Hold - Mary McMullen

First published 1951 as Who Killed Miss X?; cover shown is the 1988 Jove Books (USA) paperback edition. Cover art by Sally Vitsky. 188 pages.

This is the first "new" McMullen I've managed to find in months, and reading it was like meeting up with an old friend; I stayed up well past midnight to finish it.

On Eve Fitzsimmons' second day in her new job as a copywriter at advertising agency Wade & Wallingford, a young woman is found - nude and strangled - in the executive boardroom. While the detective in charge of the case - Lieutenant Grace of Homicide - works overtime to unravel the mystery behind the dead woman's identity, Eve and her colleagues must continue to come to work and act like all is right with the world... even though they know that one of them is a murderer.

Ten people were working overtime on the night that the mystery woman was lured into the boardroom. Eve is one, but so is Luke Barden, the agency's star art director who is known for his violent moods. And then there is Tom Marriott, high up in the food chain of Wade & Wallingford. And Willie, Eve's office mate, who grows more haggard and miserable as the days wear on. Something is eating away at her - but what?

When the mystery woman is discovered to have married an American serviceman during the war (a man who may now be married again and may not want his past mistakes revealed), Lieutenant Grace's investigation goes into overdrive. And when a second strangling is linked to the case, no one is safe... least of all Eve, who overhears something so dangerous that she finds herself next on the killer's list.

This highly readable, wholly enjoyable mystery from McMullen was written in 1951, but is surprisingly undated. It was interesting to note the patronising attitude towards women displayed by many of the lead male characters. McMullen worked in the world of advertising herself where this attitude of "it's a man's world" must have been prevalent at the time, and I like that she didn't shy away from it.

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