“…Lucille Smith was standing in her room in the servants’ quarters back of the house, buttoning the belt of a new white uniform. She touched her mouth lightly with lipstick.
‘You’re starting all over again, Lucille.’ she told herself in the mirror. ‘You’re going to have a happy, useful life from now on, and forget everything that was before.’
But there went her eyes too wide again, as though to deny her words. Her eyes looked much like her mother’s when they opened like that, and her mother was part of what she must forget. She must overcome the habit of stretching her eyes. It made her look surprised and uncertain, too, which was not at all the way to look around children.”
Patricia Highsmith, ‘The Heroine’
From Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense, Edited by Sarah Weinman
Fourteen chilling tales from the pioneering women who created the domestic suspense genre
Murderous wives, deranged husbands, deceitful children, and vengeful friends. Few know these characters—and their creators—better than Sarah Weinman. One of today’s preeminent authorities on crime fiction, Weinman asks: Where would bestselling authors like Gillian Flynn, Sue Grafton, or Tana French be without the women writers who came before them?
In Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, Weinman brings together fourteen hair-raising tales by women who—from the 1940s through the mid-1970s—took a scalpel to contemporary society and sliced away to reveal its dark essence. Lovers of crime fiction from any era will welcome this deliciously dark tribute to a largely forgotten generation of women writers.
I generally refuse books from publishers if they are not historical fiction, but I was intrigued by this collection for a number of reasons. First, I’m falling in love again with short stories. To paraphrase Edgar Allan Poe, it is best to read a story in a single sitting. In my increasingly busy life, I have a new appreciation for fiction that allows me to do this. Also, each story is selected and introduced by editor Sarah Weinman, who has an excellent Twitter account (@SarahW) dealing mostly with publishing and current events.
In Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, Weinman introduces each story with a brief bio and historical context. The biographies of the women featured in the collection are every bit as interesting as their chilling tales, and will inspire the reader to want to learn more about them and read more from them. They are arranged loosely by age of subject, and from the terrifying teen in the opening story to the home-bound elderly woman in the last, each tale explores a different dimension of madness and crime.
One does not need to love the suspense genre to enjoy Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives. If you have an appreciation for stories of psychological terror or are interested in women writers from the past who opened doors for their contemporary counterparts, you must read this collection.