Margaret Millar Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Margaret Millar began her writing career with three successive novels about the amusing psychoanalyst-detective Dr. Paul Prye, but she became successful when she decided to make the psychological profiles of demented criminals and their victims her focus. With The Iron Gates (1945), her sixth book, Millar scored her first major success. The book centers on the effect that the monsters of fear can have on the mind of an outwardly happy, well-adjusted, well-to-do woman.

After The Iron Gates, Millar wrote more than a dozen books of suspense, most of which have been both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. She helped turn the psychological thriller into an art form, and she created books brimming with three-dimensional characterizations: real, breathing people, portrayed in crisp, vivid prose.

Millar’s novels are concerned with the inner life of the individual, with the distortions of reality that psychopathology and stressful situations can forge in the mind. Although Millar did not focus as heavily on social analysis as did her husband, Ross Macdonald, her novels do present current social concerns whose treatment deepens over the span of her work. Her characters exist in Freudian microcosms, shaped and determined by their significant relationships: parent/child, husband/wife, brother/sister.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Cooper-Clark, Diana. Designs of Darkness: Interviews with Detective Novelists. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1983. Features an interview with Millar, detailing her creative process and her thoughts on mystery and detective fiction.

Dubose, Martha Hailey, with Margaret Caldwell Thomas. Women of Mystery: The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2000. Essay on Millar compares her to five of her fellow female mystery novelists, examining her distinctive contribution to the genre.

Horsley, Lee. The Noir Thriller. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Scholarly treatise on the thriller genre discussing four of Millar’s novels, from The Iron Gates to Beyond This Point Are Monsters. Bibliography and index.

Lachman, Marvin. “Margaret Millar: The Checklist of an Unknown Mystery Writer.” The Armchair Detective 3 (October, 1970): 85-88. Complete bibliography of Millar’s early works.

Lindsay, Elizabeth Blakesley, ed. “Margaret Millar.” Great Women Mystery Writers. 2d ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007. Contains biographical information and analysis of the author’s works.

Reilly, John M. “Margaret Millar.” In Ten Women of Mystery, edited by Earl F. Bargainnier. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1981. Compares Millar with nine of her fellow female mystery writers, detailing her distinctive contributions to the genre.

Russell, Ruth Weber, ed. Women of Waterloo County. Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.: Canadian Federation of University Women, 2000. This study of Ontarian women includes a chapter on Millar. Bibliographic references and index.