Originally published 1942
This edition, Stark House Mystery Press, October 2003
My latest foray into older domestic suspense is a definitely creepy story called Lady Killer. Elisabeth Sanxay Holding wrote mysteries from the late 1920’s until the early 1950’s, and a few of her books have been reissued by Stark House Press. See the following post for a bit more information about her books.
Lady Killer tells the story of Honey Stapleton and her much older husband Weaver who embark on a boat trip from New York to the Caribbean at the beginning of the novel. Their marriage is beginning to deteriorate, and the challenges of being on a small ship with a decidedly strange cast of travelers make their marital problems stand out even more. Honey begins the journey feeling suspicious of the couple in the neighboring cabin, the newlyweds Captain and Alma Lashelle: she worries that the Captain is trying to murder his wife, and the rest of the book involves her attempts to get any of the other passengers or crew members to take her suspicions seriously. There also is a mysterious death on board and a couple odd forays onto islands for short excursions, all which seem ominous as well.
It’s a compact novel, it’s a creepy novel, but it’s not exactly my favorite kind of story. I gravitate towards more plot than suspense. Holding is so good at creating the claustrophobic atmosphere on the boat and in Honey’s head that I felt myself having to take breaks. The payoff was quite good, though. I’m glad I tried this author, and I’ll return to her when I’m looking for something really suspenseful again.