04 October 2016

The Return of Frances Shelley Wees

Regular readers may recall last November's rave review of Frances Shelley Wees's 1956 The Keys of My Prison. Titled "A Rival for Margaret Millar?", it began with another question:
Is The Keys of My Prison typical Frances Shelley Wees? If so, she's a writer who deserves attention. If not, the worst that can be said is that she wrote at least one novel worthy of same.
You may also remember passing mention last December of a novel I was hoping to return to print.

That novel is, of course, The Keys of My Prison. I'm pleased to announce it is shipping as I write. The eleventh Ricochet Books title, the new edition features an Introduction by Rosemary Aubert, author of the Ellis Portal mystery series. It marks a return to print of one of this country's earliest mystery writers. From The Maestro Murders (1931) to The Last Concubine (1970), Wees's career stretched nearly four decades.

Is The Keys of My Prison the very best of Frances Shelley Wees? I won't pretend to know. All I can say at present is that it is the best I've read. It is also one of the very best Canadian mysteries of the 'fifties.

Here's how I describe it in the catalogue copy:
A disturbing tale of identity and deception set in 1950s Toronto. 
That Rafe Jonason’s life didn’t end when he smashed up his car was something of a miracle; on that everyone agreed. However, the devoted husband and pillar of the community emerges from hospital a very different man. Coarse and intolerant, this new Rafe drinks away his days, showing no interest in returning to work. Worst of all, he doesn’t appear to recognize or so much as remember his loving wife Julie. Tension and suspicion within the couple’s Rosedale mansion grow after it is learned that Rafe wasn’t alone in the car that night. Is it that Julie never truly knew her husband? Or might it be that this man isn’t Rafe Jonason at all?
The Keys of My Prison is available in our very best bookstores and from publisher Véhicule Press.

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  1. Exciting! I'll definitely be purchasing a copy...even though I swore no more book buying until next year.

    I'll try to get to my two Wees' mysteries to let you know about her "early period." I liked the start of THE MYSTERY OF THE CREEPING MAN (1931) set on a Canadian college campus, but I set it aside way back in May and never returned to it. Not because it's bad, but because I had other books I wanted to write up. LOST HOUSE (1938) by Wees is also in the TBR&R pile.

    1. I haven't read either, John, though not for want of trying. Sad to say I've yet to come across a single Frances Shelley Wees title in my travels. I'll be interested in hearing what you have to say about both, particularly Lost House, which was later blessed with one of the greatest Harlequin covers of all time.

      "Dope, Danger and Dolls". Who can resist?