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The Blank Wall

ISBN: 1-903155 320

By Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

Review by: Moira Richards


I found in Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's, The Blank Wall a delightful crime suspense story. Perhaps delightful and crime don't sound like two adjectives that belong in the same book, and I was surprised too, to find myself sometimes smiling at the same time as I was page-turning to find out what would happen next.


The novel was first published in the 1940s and is set somewhere just outside of New York during World War II.  Lucia Holley, mother of teenaged children and housewifely wife of a soldier away fighting in the Pacific, is a most unlikely protagonist for a tale of murder and blackmail and conspiracy. And that she realizes this too, is part of the charm of the book.


It is difficult to review a suspense novel because one must be careful to not say anything that might spoil the plot for other readers. So, Ill talk mostly about Lucia. She's led an uneventful thirty-something years; married at age seventeen and now has a daughter that age and a son a few years younger. They are two rather supercilious and self-centered teenagers, as children of that age often can be, with respect to their mothers.


When the seamy side of life grabs this woman and commands her full attention, she finds herself hard-pressed to extricate herself from the constant demands and expectations of her household. Also, later, she is surprised to discover in herself a person different to the dull vaguely incompetent housewife she had come to believe herself to be. And the person that her children want her to be at the same time as that they condescend to her for being so. As I said earlier, The Blank Wall is a pleasing reflection on the roles of motherhood as well as a dizzying account of the problems that present themselves to Lucia for the solving, in an almost farcically insistent spiral.


The book was filmed in 2001 as The Deep End, starring Tilda Swinton. Many of its small details were changed to accommodate twenty-first century family life and social mores, but the best parts, those about the bother of being caught up in crime whilst trying to deal with motherly duties, is still portrayed beautifully in the filmed version. Elisabeth Sanxay Holding was a prolific writer and I look forward to the day that Persephone Books republishes another from her treasure-trove of crime fiction.

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