by Bruce TierneyAugust, 2000
Tip of the IcepickA female mystery novelist was something of an anomaly in the 1940s and '50s, particularly one who wrote in the first person like the best of the hard-boiled detective writers. Mabel Seeley, all but forgotten these days, was one of the early pioneer women of the genre. Over the course of 16 years she wrote seven mysteries; The Whistling Shadow, published in 1954, was the last. Now a small press in Minnesota, where Seeley's mysteries were set, is reissuing these classics in handsome new hardcovers. In The Whistling Shadow Minnesota widow Gail Kiscadden has just buried her son. She now shares her home with her disagreeable daughter-in-law and her newborn grandson, fully expecting to live a quiet and normal, if somewhat cheerless, life. Then disaster strikes: The baby is kidnapped and held for ransom, and Gail must draw upon all her resources to get to the bottom of the crime. The Whistling Shadow is surprisingly contemporary in writing style, conversational, and easy to read. Mabel Seeley was deservedly popular in her day; it appears her day is coming again.