In the opening scene of Escape, a doctor tells actress Emmy Ritter she’ll be able to walk in a week.
“Just in time for my execution,” she replies.
Ethel Vance hooked me with that line, and she didn’t let go until I’d read the rest of her novel that evening.
Authorities refuse to allow Emmy’s son, Mark, to see her.
However, the sympathetic doctor fakes Emmy’s death, falsifies the death certificate, and releases the body to Mark and the Ritter’s faithful servant, Fritz, telling them Emmy must be kept warm or she will die.
Keeping her warm in an unheated truck in winter is a problem. Mark pushes the problem on his only other local acquaintance, a Countess reduced to running an upscale girls’ boarding school.
Mark doesn’t know the Countess’ lover is the man responsible for catching escaped prisoners, so he doesn’t worry about the girls’ chatter. Readers, like me, will bite their nails.
Vance is masterful at sustaining suspense. But it’s not just the wonderful storytelling that kept my attention.
Vance also explores various facets of love, from sexual passion to filial love, to a longstanding employer-employee relationship. Under her careful scrutiny, no relationship is quite as simple as it appears on the surface.Escape By Ethel Vance Little, Brown 428 pages 1939 bestseller # 5 My Grade: A-