“Phantom Lady” by Cornell Woolrich is a murder mystery full of suspense, horror and psychological twists and turns. The novel follows the story of Scott Henderson, who has been accused and convicted of murdering his wife. The problem with this is that he didn’t do it. Henderson now has to convince the authorities, his friends and his mistress that he is innocent with a looming execution date hanging over his head.
After having a particularly nasty fight with his wife, Marcella, Henderson leaves the house in a huff to get a drink. He meets a mystery woman in a flamboyant orange hat and decides to take her along to all of the things he had planned to do with his wife, no strings attached. The night includes dinner, drinks, cab rides, innocent small talk and a theater performance.
After the evening ends with an agreement to not share names or any other personal information, Henderson leaves the mystery woman and returns home. He is met by detectives, accusations and his wife strangled to death with his own necktie. We find out that Marcella was a wicked, jealous woman who refused to divorce Henderson purely out of spite, and Henderson has taken a mistress whom he really loves.
Knowing full well he was out all night with the mystery woman in the orange hat, Henderson tries desperately to convince the authorities that although his marriage was an unhappy one, he would never hurt his wife. A problem arises when Henderson realizes he doesn’t know who the woman in the orange hat is or how to find her.
The police are not convinced she exists and Henderson himself begins to question his sanity.
Locked away awaiting his execution, Henderson relies on help from an old friend to find the woman, but terrible events occur in the search for witnesses. After finally finding people who admit to seeing Henderson and the mystery woman, it is clear someone has bribed them to keep quiet – and when they don’t, they mysteriously wind up dead.
His novels were written in the 1940s and have been known to portray nightmarish scenarios in which average people are thrown into a world of suspense, terror and mystery.
The moment I thought I had figured it all out I was immediately questioning myself. I couldn’t put the novel down for long without my thoughts wondering back to the ultimate question of
“Whodunnit?” It’s a novel that causes you to furiously read with a furrowed brow as the suspense and uncertainty builds. Being written in the 1940s, the novel is riddled with cigarette smoking, scotch on the rocks and fast-taking wise guys. I highly recommend “Phantom Lady” to anyone who loves a good old-fashioned murder mystery.
This is great....hijab is a beautiful thing.
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