Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives is a collection of short stories written by female writers. All of the stories are psychological thrillers written between 1940 and 1970.
The collection began with The Heroine by Patrica Highsmith. This was the story of a young woman who took a job as a nanny for a family with two young children. It wasn’t long before the young woman became overly devoted to the children and wanted to demonstrate her worth to the family.
A Nice Place to Stay by Nedra Tyre told the story of a poor woman who lived on charity, earning small amounts by caring for the elderly and unloved. It wasn’t lost on me that this is a role which is not much better valued today. When the woman was sent to jail for a crime which she had not committed the silver lining was that she had at last found a safe haven.
I’ve been wanting something by Shirley Jackson for some time and was happy that this collection contained Louisa, Please Come Home. The main character, Louisa was a runaway who made a life for herself away from her family.
The next story, Sugar and Spice was by Vera Caspary. I had previously read Laura by this author and enjoyed it very much, so had high hopes of the short story, which did not disappoint. Sugar and Spice is the story of two female cousins, one of whom was beautiful and poor and the other rich and plain. When the husband of one was murdered and both women were suspected, a man living on the other side of the country who had known both women since they were teenagers instantly knew which of the women was the murderer.
Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree by Helen Neilsen is about a woman who had an affair with a married man then went on to marry him. I can see two things the heroine should not have done in that first sentence. The ending was so ambiguous that I can’t imagine what the heroine did next.
Everybody Needs a Mink by Dorothy B. Hughes told of a woman out shopping who had a stranger in a department store inexplicably purchase an extraordinarily expensive mink coat for her. Surprisingly, the woman’s husband didn’t ask many questions, although both were mystified by the unknown man’s behaviour.
The next story, The Purple Shroud, was by Joyce Harrington. A weaver and her artist husband spent every summer at an art colony, where her husband taught an art class and had an affair with a different student every year. Finally having had enough of her husband’s infidelity, the woman wove a shroud for her him.
I had previously read the novel The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding so was eager to read the short story, The Stranger in the Car. This was the longest story in the collection and it also turned out to be my favourite. This story followed a husband and father who did his best to protect the women in his family after his daughter was exposed to blackmail. The man also tried to prevent his ill wife from learning what has happened only to learn that he was the one being protected by his wife and daughter.
The Splintered Monday by Charlotte Armstrong was another story I particularly liked. An elderly woman who had been staying with her nephew after the death of her invalid sister suspected she didn’t know exactly what had been going on in the household so she poked around and asked questions until she did.
Lost Generation by Dorothy Salisbury Davis was the only story in the collection that is entirely about men. It is a horrible story about the actions and values of a group of men in a small town who believe they act for the good of their town.
The People Across the Canyon by Margaret Millar contains a warning for readers to spend time with their children instead of watching television and ignoring them. If the story were written in this day and age I expect the plot would have revolved around excessive use of social media.
Mortmain by Miriam Allen Deford was about a nurse caring for an elderly dying man. Elderly people can be quite vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t know what is going on around them.
The final story, A Case of Maximum Need by Celia Fremlin featured an elderly woman who lived alone but refused to have a telephone because she said it would be too dangerous. Ha! I enjoyed the twist in the tail of this story very much, as would anyone who has ever been subjected to sexual harassment in any form.
I didn’t think there were any weak links in the collection.