Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Iron Gates: Margaret Millar

I especially like Margaret Millar's crime fiction novels because they are different. The focus is on the psychological aspects of crime, and often the characters are strange and quirky (but not in a comical way). Reading her books adds more variety to my reading.


The Iron Gates is the second novel featuring Inspector Sands and one of Millar's earlier novels. Her novels did not feature recurring characters often but the ones I have read appeal to me.

The story starts with Lucille Morrow coming down to breakfast to join her family. She is very pleased and satisfied with her married life. Her second husband, Andrew, a doctor, is devoted to her, but her step-children, Polly and Martin, have never warmed to her, even though they were very young when their first mother died and Andrew and Lucille married. One morning a stranger delivers a package for Lucille, and shortly after that, she disappears. Andrew reports her as missing, and Inspector Sands is assigned to find her. Coincidentally, Inspector Sands also took part in the investigation of the death of Andrew's first wife. We take a circuitous (but rewarding) path to discover why she disappeared.

This is a book of psychological suspense more than a puzzle, but there are mysteries to be solved. What happened to Marian Morrow, Andrew's first wife. Why did the contents of the package drive Lucille to disappear? And more deaths follow. How and why?

Margaret Millar draws very interesting characters. Even small roles are well-defined. Giles, Polly's boyfriend and soon to be husband, extracts himself from the family until he can understand what is going on. He senses unacknowledged emotions buried beneath the surface. Although the police do not have a large role in this story, several of them have interesting back stories, and I really liked the character of Inspector Sands (as I did in Wall of Eyes).

Also of interest is the wartime setting. The book was published in 1945 and is set during the war. Polly's fiancé is in the military, soon to be sent overseas, and, due to the draft, there is a shortage of men available to work on the police force.


Margaret Millar was born, raised, and educated in Canada. Some of her books were set in Canada, and some were set in Southern California, where she lived most of her adult life with her husband Kenneth Millar, also known as Ross Macdonald. This book was set in Toronto, Canada, and uses that setting very well.

From Brian Busby's review in The Dusty Bookcase:
Margaret Millar's sixth novel, The Iron Gates, was the one that really made her. With the proceeds of its sale she bought a house in Santa Barbara, sharing it with her husband Kenneth, far from the cold of Canadian winters past.
See also:



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Publisher: Dell, 1960 (orig. pub. 1945).
Length:    222 
Format:    Paperback (D-332)
Series:     Inspector Sands #2
Setting:    Toronto, Canada
Genre:     Mystery, Police Procedural
Source:    I purchased this book in 2015.


23 comments:

  1. I’ve only read two books by her, both very good, but not this one. I’ll have to give it a try.

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    1. This is my favorite book by Millar so far, Rick, but that happens every time I read one of her books.

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  2. Ooooh, this sounds good. I haven't read any yet by this author but that needs to be remedied. Thanks for the review!

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    1. I definitely recommend Millar's novels, J.P. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. I really like Millar's writing, too, Tracy. As you say, she has a very effective focus on the psychological that I think works quite well. What's more, her characters ring true enough (at least for me) that one can really imagine the sorts of things that happen in her stories. Glad you enjoyed this one.

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    1. I agree, Margot, the characters in Millar's books are different but believable.

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  4. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get back to reading more Millars; I thoroughly enjoyed the five I read in a flurry a few months ago.

    And thanks for the link!

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    1. I know, John, I keep forgetting Millar wrote so many books and I need to read more of them. I have several more on the TBR pile.

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  5. A title to add to my TBB pile immediately! You've definitely whetted my appetite to try this book.

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    1. This book by Millar is very good, Kate. I think I liked it more than some reviewers; I had no complaints.

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  6. I admire Millar enormously.
    I hadn't come across the "Inspector Sands" books, but it looks like Millar has a fan in a senior position on London Transport. Phrases beginning "Would Inspector Sands report to..." are used as code words on the loudspeaker system for possible emergencies without causing panic!

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    1. That is a very interesting tidbit, Roger. Yes, Millar is getting to be one of my favorite authors.

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  7. I have yet to read something by Mrs. Millar, and I can see it is high time I did so!

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    1. Definitely, Mathew. This one may not be the best one for you, but you should try one of her books.

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  8. I love Margaret Millar, but haven't come across this one at all: and it sounds most enticing. Though also - the name Lucille Morrow sounds familiar. I wonder if it was ever published under a different name? I must check.

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    1. Moira, this book was also published as Taste of Fears, and I think Brian Busby noted on his blog that it was known more by that title in Europe. I did mean to mention that but forgot, so I am glad you asked, and I will take the time to add that to the post... soon I hope.

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  9. The Iron Gates shares the very same strengths as Wall of Eyes. As you point out, every character, no matter how small a role, is well-defined. And the dialogue! She was a master, revealing without telling. Can I encourage you to read An Air That Kills next? The last of her books to have a Canadian setting, I think it was her best.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Brian. I have An Air That Kills in COLLECTED MILLAR: THE MASTER AT HER ZENITH. I will have to read that one soon. I do enjoy the novels set in Canada.

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  10. Just the one from Millar for me so far. I'll have to try something else soon, I don't think I have this one on the shelves.

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    1. I went out of my way to get this book (and multiple copies) because of the great covers, Col. Always good to have a really good book and a great cover too.

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  11. Hi Tracy! *waving hello* Of course, I love Margaret Millar but have been remiss in reading anything by her lately. I don't see this one you reviewed as being available in ebook yet. Added it to my list. Hope all is well. I hope to keep up. with you. I see Margot left blogging but comments here so that's good. --Keishon

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    1. It is good to hear from you, Keishon. I haven't read as much Millar lately as I planned to. Every time I read one of her books I remember how much I like her writing. I do miss Margot's blog. I hope all is well with you also.

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