The Listening House

Mystery lovers will likely have two persistent questions as they read this reissue of Mabel Seeley's lost treasure The Listening House, first published in 1938: 1) "Who's the killer?" and 2) "Why can't all fictional sleuths be as wonderful as Gwynne Dacres?"

Twenty-six-year-old divorcée Gwynne is between copywriting jobs when she moves into Mrs. Garr's lodging house in fictional Gilling City. On Gwynne's first night at the house, she awakens to the sensation "not of my own ears hearing sounds, but of other ears listening, of the house listening." While she has previously been accused of having an active imagination, she's not imagining the dead body that she finds at the bottom of an incline behind Mrs. Garr's place. The victim has been shot, and everything points to his having fallen or been pushed from Mrs. Garr's property. This won't be the last corpse associated with the house, and, sure enough, each of Gwynne's fellow lodgers has a motive for murder.

The Listening House is a corking good mystery abuzz with bon mots, snappy comebacks and sexual tension, calling to mind the best screwball comedies of the 1930s. With her novels, Seeley (1903-1991) introduced early examples of self-reliant female sleuths, and Gwynne is a paragon: she more than matches wits with the men working the case. Even more unusual for a female protagonist of her time, Gwynne has un-leading-lady-like looks and couldn't care less: "I'm short and stocky, as a girl with Scotch peasant ancestry has a right to be." --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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