First published 1964; cover shown is the 1969 MacFadden-Bartell Books (USA) paperback. Cover artist uncredited. 144p.
It looks like I'll be adding Mildred Davis (author of some 15 mystery/suspense novels written between 1948 and 1977) to my ever-increasing list of favourites. Her older books are now quite hard to find; this was a lucky 50 cent purchase at a book fair.
The Voice on the Telephone uses the interesting concept of three first-person narratives, intertwined throughout in date order. It works well, and makes the death of one of the three people all the more shocking - because suddenly her narrative is missing.
The plot itself seemed cliched or predictable; I guessed the big 'twist' very early on, making the climax not as shocking as perhaps Davis had hoped it would be. But this doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the story.
The plot guarantees suspense: a passenger on a American flight opens his briefcase and detonates a bomb, killing all 41 people on board. The three females providing the narratives, moment by moment, all have something in common: they each lost someone close to them in the crash. Abby lost her mysterious and wealthy lover, Bobby. Peggy, still in hospital after giving birth, lost her husband. And 14-year-old Les lost her father.
Within hours of the crash, each of the women receive anonymous telephone calls. Abby receives instructions to meet 'someone' in town. Peggy is asked for half of the life insurance taken out on her dead husband. Les's stepfather is blackmailed. Henry McNeill, an FBI agent, investigates the calls, certain that some of the calls are imaginary. But when Peggy's days-old baby is kidnapped, the mysterious caller becomes all too real.