The Innocent Mrs. Duff — Elizabeth Sanxay Holding-1946-used
I read Number 100, only recently. And had to jam it into the list, somewhere. Maybe it belongs a lower number, I don’t know and won’t try to figure it out, my mind has lost its ability to discern between good great and greatest, to coin a Stephen Colbert phrase. I bought this particular copy because it’s a Dell Mapback and I collect them. It’s been laying around ever since. One night, desperate for something to read other than the 500 titles I’d been staring at for a millennium, I grabbed it and turned the page–and didn’t stop turning until it was finished. To describe this novel as fascinating, is damning it with faint praise, it’s extraordinary. Seen mostly through the eyes of a drunken middle aged man, Jacob Duff, whose life is nothing to complain about: a cushy job; young accommodating wife; a protecting aunt; has no worries–or, does he? He sees everything through a glass darkly, the liqueur bottle. At first he leaves work for only a quick drink, but then the drinks become longer and he starts to believe people are judging and forcing him to hide in dark bars to enjoy his cocktails. He rails against his wife, complaining and comparing her to his ex, whom he wasn’t fond of either. He’s self absorbed, self involved, he’s downright selfish. The story is character driven certainly, with an almost voyeuristic peep into an alcoholic’s pysche. However, the reader is never ahead of the plot, it turns in directions and angles that only a clouded mind understands. A psychological thriller, before there were psychological thrillers. According to author Ed Gorman: “Alcoholic Raymond Chandler pushed it as one of the finest suspense novels of his time.” Mr. Gorman also goes on to say it’s better than any Ruth Rendell, which is where we part company, lol. Nothing in print is creepier and delves more soundly into the sick psyche than the best Rendell. When I read The Innocent Mrs, Duff, I’d no idea it was making the comeback rounds among Golden Age Mystery aficionados. But when googled, the title pops up with several links to reviews and accolades. My late night random reading pick turned out to a 100 per cent great choice!
For a much better review and examination of this title go to mystery author Ed Gorman’s swell blog: