cover image Last Seen Wearing

Last Seen Wearing

Hillary Waugh. Poisoned Pen, $15.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-4642-1305-2

Originally published in 1952, this entry in the Library of Congress Crime Classics series from MWA Grand Master Waugh (1920–2008) stands as one of the first and best police procedurals. On Mar. 3, 1950, 18-year-old Lowell Mitchell, a freshman at Parker College in Bristol, Mass., vanishes. The police investigation unfolds over five weeks, from Lowell’s disappearance to the case’s resolution. Though there’s not much action, Waugh builds suspense by raising doubts about motive and character. Did Lowell run away? Is she dead? The search for answers to these and other questions will keep readers turning the pages, though some will be put off by the cruelly casual sexism: “girls” only go to college to find a husband, and the “only reasonable explanation” for a teenage girl’s disappearance is her sneaking off to have an illegal abortion. Series editor Leslie Klinger’s annotations offer fascinating insights into the postwar milieu. Those looking for a period mystery where ordinary cops are the good guys will be rewarded. (Feb.)