Three new Mildred Davis mysteries! Follow link below
A Unique Talent in the History of Suspense Fiction
Mildred Davis published her first novel,
The Room Upstairs, in 1948. It was awarded an Edgar for
best first novel of the year by the Mystery Writers of America. A
rich novel with subtle strains of gothic horror and hard-boiled
private eye, this book lifted her into the limelight
as an author of promise.
In 1953, her long-awaited second book was published, the
Faulkneresque They Buried a Man, a tour de force
of multiple narrative standpoints
that established her as an important new and original voice
in the world of mystery / suspense fiction.
Superficial criticism has it that Mildred Davis' novels
thereafter did not live up to the promise and inspiration of her two
works of genius. A closer look, however, gives a better appreciation
of the evolution of her subsequent writing.
The first two books were dazzling. They must have represented the
acme of achievement seen through the lens of a childhood ambition
to be a writer. They were "literary"; they belonged to the heady
days of youthful enthusiasm. We might say that the burgeoning author
had to get these two masterpieces out of her system before she
could settle down to the development of her own authentic style.
When Mildred Davis retired to a suburban housewife-mother-writer
lifestyle, the talents that give the unique character to her
writing began to flower. As the opening novels reflect the
belles-lettres of her academic life, the later novels find
their roots in the quiet middle-class mundaneness of her settled
She has a gift for embedding terror into the harmless ordinariness
of mid-century suburbia, yet without distorting the essential
nature of that world. And her special genius is to transport the
reader into the very consciousness of her protagonist. To read a
Mildred Davis novel is to live someone else's life for a couple of
The novella Suicide Hour stands as the pivot between the
early and later periods of the author's career. Published in 1954,
it displays the wonderful strengths of both. Like her first two
novels, it is exquisitely crafted, a joy of structure and timing.
And like the best of her later books, it takes us right into the soul
of its heroine's experience.
Several motifs foreshadowing the later work
appear here also: submerged menace in a suburban setting; the
teenage girl who has lost a parent; a fascination with abnormal
psychology; the quest for an elusive and frightening truth.