The Sound of Insects by Mildred Davis

Like insects scrambling for safety…
the victims of blackmailer Johnny MacLeod trampled on anyone who got in their way as they tried to hide their guilty secrets.
  Someone had stabbed Johnny with an ice pick. But the town’s secrets did not die with him. They only came closer to the surface. Now it was necessary to find a victim to take  the blame and stop the gossip that threatened to destroy the whole town.

I read this book for Crime Fiction of the Year over @Past Offences. This month’s year is 1967. I enjoy doing this meme! Each month we have to read a book published in the year chosen by Rich or a fellow reader. Click on the link 1967 to go to the page and see what everyone read or sign up yourself!

This was another excellent book by Mildred Davis. She does suspense well! Johnny seems to be blackmailing everyone in town. Finally he meets his match and someone puts an ice pick through his heart. They should have felt safe now but then the whispering phone calls started! His mother is acting strange and snooping around, determined to find the killer. Making all kinds of innuendos. Pitting one neighbor against the other. Is she the one making the calls?

A good study in human behavior. Davis sets up the community dynamics well in the opening chapters. Seems like a tight community, with long standing friendships, until Johnny is killed. Now protecting their secrets are at the top of the list and they become like insects ready to devour each other. A kidnapping, a suicide and a confession lead to the climactic ending.

quote:
Newer leaves, patched red and yellow as though by a colorful disease, covered the infinite layers beneath. Jelly Bean ran ahead, stopping now and then to cock his head. He heard a brittle crackle far off in the still air and took off like a shot. She tried to whistle him back but her only answer was a distant thrashing.
  A cluster of black-eyed Susans were still growing in a sheltered copse and she bent to pick them for the cache pot in her room. Then she followed the sounds of thrashing and found Jelly Bean digging furiously at a not-yet frozen patch of ground. Uneasy, she whistled again, but he paid no attention.
  She went over to pull him away and saw what he had – a thin gold ring with an old fashioned setting that held an opal.
  The flowers slipped from her nerveless fingers, joining the dead things on the floor of the woods. A wind whistled past the witch hazel trees, making her shiver. Finally she pushed Jelly Bean away and dug quickly, bringing up the rest of it – a gold charm bracelet, earrings with tiny diamonds and sapphires, a string of small pearls.
  She looked around as though expecting the woods to be filled with prying eyes. Everything was deserted. She carried the jewelry in both fists since she had no pockets and walked back to the house. At the edge of the lawn she stopped to make sure no one was watching. Then she ran to the French doors…

Good book, highly recommend!

Peggy Ann

Mildred Davis, ‘They Buried A Man’

Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise hosts the Crime Fiction Alphabet each week. This week we’re halfway through with the letter M and I’m highlighting Mildred B. Davis…

‘The fatal poisoning had happened more than twenty years before…

Now the best loved man in Little Forks was dead, victim of a cruel and senseless automobile accident.

“Could it be a case of belated justice?” the doctor wondered to his wife. And the town’s new young newspaper editor began to do some wondering of his own. What had the dead man, Selwyn Buoman, really been like? Was this upright man guilty of an old murder nobody wanted to talk about?

Being a good newspaperman, Gunnard Kerr went deeper and deeper into the life of Selwyn Buoman, and at last he found the extraordinary solution to a murder – and to the character of an unusual man.’

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery! I HAD to get to the end to see who did it. Ms. Davis used multiple narrators to tell the story. Chapters titled as to whom was telling their side of the story-Story Continued by Minnie Caldecott… It was fun getting to know the characters this way. Like an actress sliding into a role, Ms. Davis slid into character as she wrote each chapter. I enjoyed the small town atmosphere and relationships. I liked the characters. Even the not so lovely or nice ones you found yourself understanding and wanting them to grow and become better people. It was interesting in seeing how the secrets and character of one man effected the whole community and changed the course of all the residents lives. I highly recommend this book. I am on the look out now for her first book, ‘ The Room Upstairs’.

Quotes from the book:

‘they buried a man a year ago. A man Little Forks knew and loved for nearly half a century. A man who ….. They buried a man a year ago, but they couldn’t bury all the threads with which he was tied to the people he left behind.’

‘Bert and I weren’t superstitious. We knew there was nothing in the plaster of the walls or the wood of the floor to make our Una unhappy because she lived In a room where there’d been so much misery 24 years ago. Just as there was nothing in the plaster and the wood of the dining room to make it haunted because a man fell dead there with a bellyful of poison 22 years ago. What happened in these rooms and between these walls long ago wasn’t in them any more. Even Bert’s and my happiness wasn’t in them. They were just walls and rooms, and the misery and happiness was only in the people who walked in them.’

You can check out more about Mildred @ Mildred Davis Mystery Bookroom

Bibliography:
1948 – The Room Upstairs (Edgar Award for Best First Novel, presented by the Mystery Writers of America)
1953 – They Buried a Man
1954 – Suicide Hour (a novella) click on the link to download a free copy!
1955 – The Dark Place
1964 – The Voice on the Telephone
1966 – The Sound of Insects
1967 – Strange Corner
1967 – Walk Into Yesterday (aka Nightmare of Murder)
1969 – The Third Half
1971 – Three Minutes to Midnight
1974 – The Invisible Boarder
1975 – Tell Them What’s-Her-Name Called
1977 – Scorpion
1977 – Lucifer Land (co-authored w/Katherine Davis)
2006 – Murder in Maine: The Avenging of Nevah Wright (co-authored w/Katherine Roome)
2007 – Murder in Maine: The Fly Man Murders
2008 – Murder in Maine: The Butterfly Effect

This book also counts toward my Vintage Mystery Challenge over at Bev’s My Readers Block.

Some old book covers of Mildred’s books…