Ask for Me Tomorrow

I grabbed this novel because I had heard that the author, Margaret Millar, often introduces a startling twist to the plot on the last page, even in the last sentence. I’ve thought sometimes that I would like to try doing that with one of my Finnegan stories.

Ask for Me Tomorrow was published in 1976, and while some of it — a small some of it — seems a little outdated, I thought the plot and characters held up well. (Certainly no one complains that Jane Austen’s characters or settings aren’t up to date, nor should they complain about any novel written for a certain time.)

The story involves a young lawyer’s search in Mexico for the long-missing husband of a wealthy woman from California. As he gets closer to the truth, people begin dying. The young lawyer figures out the whole twist, but I have to say that the author’s signature surprise ending — at least in this novel — wasn’t so very fantastic. It was a surprise to me, but once it was revealed, I didn’t much really care. So what? I thought.

I have no real objection to this kind of thing — the sudden twist at the end — if it is set up properly and the reader could have deduced it with the material made available. And I suppose Millar did meet this standard. I guess I didn’t figure it out because it wasn’t startling enough to give any thought to.

The narrative bogged down a bit when some unnecessarily didactic information was exchanged between two characters about drug use and the drug trade between the U.S. and Mexico. This was intended, of course, as a red herring, but there didn’t seem to be much effort to make it fit smoothly into the narrative.

There were also a couple of characters introduced who seemed to have no purpose other than to deliver a line or two of snappy dialogue. They had whole chapters, but their purpose — their characterization — didn’t seem to have any justification other than for verbal pyrotechnics. Nonetheless, there was a good deal of snappy dialogue in this story. I could recommend reading it for that quality, even if the “surprise twist” is ho-hum.

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