Beast in View by Margaret Millar. Random House (1955), 249 pp.
Helen Carvoe has isolated herself in a run-down hotel in Hollywood. She’s only thirty, has plenty of money and lives close to her mother, Verna, and her brother, Douglas. When she receives a threatening call from someone named Evelyn Merrick, she has no one to ask for help except her financial advisor, Paul Blackshear. He’s losing interest in his career and agrees to track down the caller as a harmless diversion. He soon has a serious mystery on his hands as Evelyn Merrick makes disruptive calls to other people.
Readers will need to pay attention if they are going to figure out what’s going on. Millar does more than simply throwing in bogus clues. She adopts an obfuscating story-telling strategy. The narrator sometimes describes events as an objective (if acerbic) observer but other times synthesizes characters’ thoughts and observations without any notice. And there’s also something about split personalities. Readers who like confusion added to their mystery stories are probably going to enjoy the book.