Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

vanish instantVanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

Originally published 1952

This edition: International Polygonics Ltd, 1989

I borrowed this book from the library.

I’ve found the first Margaret Millar novel that didn’t quite work for me. I was still wrapped up in the plot and the characters and the writing, but it didn’t seem as brilliant as Beast in View, How Like an Angel, or The Fiend. I may be overly critical because the bar was so high after those three books, but I will say that this was loads better than lots of other stuff I’ve tried this year.

Vanish in an Instant begins as a story about a weird mother-daughter dynamic. Virginia is in jail for murdering her lover Claude, an older man with money, and the protagonist of the story is her defense lawyer Charles Meecham, hired by her wealthy and eccentric mother from California. The action takes place in a thinly-disguised Ann Arbor, Michigan, named here Arbana. Millar gets the wintry-ness of the setting down, and I’m assuming that’s because she grew up not far away in Kitchener, Ontario.

The story turns into a what-really-happened story when Meecham doubts the confession of a dying man, Earl Loftus, the day after he’s retained to represent Virginia. It turns into a kind of PI novel because Charles isn’t really on the case once Virginia is no longer a murder suspect. 10110Meecham is a bit of an outsider, not in the town, but outside the strange relationships in Virginia’s circle.

Millar is so good at painting desperate characters: that is what has stayed with me the most instead of the mechanics of the plot. Everyone feels a little bit off, which kept me reading. Everyone’s motive is called into question, which is suspenseful, but it got a little tiring. When everyone is lying, it feels like a bit much to me.

I have one more Millar waiting on my shelves, Banshee, but I think I’ll try some other classic crime author before I get back to her.


4 thoughts on “Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

  1. I love your candor, Rebecca. Millar was so talented that it’s easy to see why one would set the bar high. But she was also human, and it’s well-night impossible to maintain that level of quality throughout every book. Still, I’m glad you thought this one was still worth a read.

    • Thanks, Margot. She’s a good writer even when the plot isn’t my favorite, and I’m saying that the day after I abandoned three books in a row because something about the writing in the first chapters bothered me. I’m in a picky reading phase right now.

  2. I like that comment: “Everyone feels a little bit off”. I just last night read a short story by Millar, The People Across the Canyon which was very creepy.

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