The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun by Sebastian Japrisot
Noir – Psychological Thriller – Female Protagonist – 20th Century
What if OTHER people seemed to be having deja vu when they saw you, swearing you’d been in the same place just a while ago, when you knew that was impossible? That’s just the start of the mind-bending plight of Dany, a Parisian secretary whose trip in her boss’s car to the sea has turned her world upside down and brought death along with it. A puzzle that will drive you mad and never lets up until the very end.
The Bride Wore Black by Cornell Woolrich
Noir – Female Antagonist – 20th Century
A woman, chameleon-like, seeks out seemingly unconnected men and kills them one after another. But why? What connects the men? Who is Julie, the mastermind of these murders? Woolrich, writing as William Irish, was a prodigious, mid-century master of suspense and this one became the basis for a Francois Truffaut homage to Hitchcock. The original novel still sustains its power as we wonder all along, “Why is she killing them, and should I be rooting for or against Julie?”
The Deadly Percheron by John Franklin Bardin
Noir – Psychological Thriller – 20th Century
A psychiatrist listens as his new patient tells him leprechauns are making him give away his money. When the shrink meets what seems to merely be a little person, who now tells his patient to start giving away horses, things go from bad to worse and the shrink wakes up six months later in a psychiatric hospital with a disfiguring scar and no idea what has happened. Nor do we, but the little-read Bardin ingeniously unravels the mystery for us as the doctor assumes a new identity and strives to find out.
Scully, an Australian ex-pat has just purchased a ramshackle cottage that sits on a “bare scalp of hill” along the Slieve Bloom mountains of central Ireland. Intending to renovate the dwelling for his wife and young daughter, Scully tirelessly untangles the place from the creeping vegetation only to discover that his wife has disappeared without a trace. Left alone with his child and the gaping wound in his heart, Scully attempts to unravel the mystery that looms over the novel like the shadow of a moldering castle. Dark, damp, and mournful, The Riders reads like a haunting Irish lament.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Hundreds Hall, the sprawling Georgian house owned by the Ayers family, has been lodging ghostly secrets for centuries. Though it has seen better days, by the end of the second world war, as England’s landed estates begin to be dismantled, Hundreds’ secrets are still potent enough to send maids running scared into the night, requiring the ministrations of the local Dr. Faraday to set the house and its inhabitants to rights. Faraday soon learns that there is one member of the Ayers family who will not follow his recommendations. Waters employs the ghost-story trope brilliantly here as she examines the final demise of England’s landed gentry and the tenuous fate of an independent woman.
Sisters by Daisy Johnson
Daisy Johnson has a penchant for personifying houses in a most disturbing way. The Settle House, the salt-scrubbed and splintered setting of her latest, Sisters, serves as a character in itself, with its sinking floors and throbbing walls. Beneath its sloped roof, reside Sheela and her two daughters, named September and July. The sisters, in their mid-teens, are only ten months apart in age, making them what is known as “Irish twins.” It quickly becomes clear, however, that the sisters are less two than they are one; July seems to dwell not only in the Settle House but also in the very body of her sister as if she is some sort of living and breathing fetus in fetu. Johnson’s sharp and vivid prose makes for an unsettling and delicious portrait of two girls who suffer from warped identities and unreliable memories.