Deliver Me from Eva by Paul Bailey. Murray and Gee (1946), 237 pp.
Los Angeles lawyer Mark Allard can’t believe his luck. He’s just met and married Eva Craner. She’s beautiful, sexy, smart, talented and inexplicably crazy about him. He’ll do anything for her -- which is good because Eva has some things she wants done. First she insists that they move into her house on her father’s estate in Pasadena. It’s a majestic building, and one Eva designed herself. Once there Mark finds that Eva somehow stocked the study with his favorite books and records. He meets Margot, the maid; Castleman, the all-purpose assistant; and Osman, Eva’s brother, who seems just as brilliant as she is. Mark is looking forward to dinner with his new father-in-law, Dr. Craner, who manages the estate and apparently the lives of its residents as well. He’s not an ordinary fellow, only in part because he has no legs or ears. It’s not long before Mark’s wonderment at the Craner family begins changing to apprehension.
Like low-budget horror movies, this book walks the narrow line between the frightening and the ridiculous. Its first-person narrator is surprisingly believable as he churns through emotional states -- enthrallment, curiosity, incomprehension, acquiescence, fear, terror. By telling the story from Mark’s viewpoint, the author cleverly relieves himself of explaining everything that happens. What Mark can’t figure out, the reader doesn’t learn either. The story moves quickly, picking up gruesomeness as it goes along. In addition to its intrinsic qualities, the novel has achieved a measure of fame, since it’s included in Horror: The 100 Best Books (1988). Readers who like tales of the supernatural will probably have fun with Deliver Me from Eva.