Minnesota’s answer to Agatha Christie, MABEL SEELEY (1903-1991) was among the top writers in the mystery field. This 1950 novel rates as one of her best.
The Beckoning Door concerns Cathy Kingman, quiet enough to meet, but deep in revolt against circumstances that have kept her in the little Midwest town of Long Meadow. Her resentment extends to her cousin Sylvia who, having inherited the estate that Cathy wanted, returns to Long Meadow and callously breaks up Cathy’s romance.
Then Sylvia hints that she could open the door to the outside world, and Cathy thinks the moment of escape has come. But–a fortuneteller prophesies that Sylvia will not live long, and the prophecy comes violently true. The town, knowing the jealousy that existed between the cousins jumps to a quick and easy accusation. Cathy knows that to prove her innocence, even to those who love her best, she must find the murderer.
Suddenly, terrifyingly, Cathy realizes that she herself is the hunted. It is just a question of time and wits whether she will find the murderer or be the next victim!
“No one ever mistakes me for anything but what I am, a Middle Westerner,” wrote Mabel Seeley in the 1955 supplement to Twentieth Century Authors. She credited teacher Mary Copley at Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul with first encouraging her to write. Mabel’s first published stories, creepy yarns with titles like “Fog,” appeared in the Mechanic Arts magazine “Cogwheel.” At the University of Minnesota, where “luck burst over me a second time,” she was a student of noted writer Mary Ellen Chase.
Mabel Hodnefield Seeley wrote seven mysteries between 1938 and 1954–all of them wonderful period pieces with Minnesota settings. Born in Herman, Minnesota, she moved with her family to St. Paul in 1920, when her father began work as newspaper curator at the Minnesota Historical Society. The Hodnefields lived on Capitol Boulevard and later at 1842 Laurel Avenue. Mabel’s first marriage, to fellow university student Kenneth Seeley, ended in divorce, and she later married attorney Henry Ross and moved to New Jersey. Her son Gregory Seeley once told a reporter: “She was a superwoman to me. Because she wrote at home, she was always there when I came home from school.”
Her books received rave reviews when they were first published and they remain every bit as good today.
Cover painting by Paul S. Kramer.