Monday, September 03, 2007

Beyond This Point Are Monsters - Margaret Millar

First published 1970; cover shown is the 1974 Avon Books (USA) paperback edition. 175p. Cover artist unknown.

One year after a young, happily married rancher goes missing, his wife, mother and assorted witnesses meet in a Californian courthouse. Devon Osborne, Robert's wife, seeks legal closure for his probable death. Robert's mother has other ideas.

All the evidence points to Robert having been murdered (while his body was never found, a large pool of blood was found in a bunkhouse, a bloodstained butterfly knife was found in a nearby pumpkin patch, and a truckload of illegal Mexican workers disappeared the same night), and Millar never alludes that he could still be alive.

The one-day court hearing, along with behind-the-scenes glimpses into the lives of Robert's mother and wife, uncovers details of Robert's past that even Devon didn't know, and which perhaps had a bearing on his death. The supposed accidental death of Robert's father when Robert was 15 is questioned, as was the extraordinarily close relationship he had at the time with the wife of a neighbouring rancher, some 30 years his senior.

While legally the decision is made to declare Robert Osborne dead, mentally and in all other ways his mother refuses to believe this. Her increasingly desperate behaviour grows more unhinged with each chapter, but it is not until the end that the full extent of her madness is revealed. Millar's unexpected sting in the tail strikes again!

No comments: