Agatha Christie is considered the godmother of the cozy mystery, even though her books are tonally different than the cozies of today.
If you’re not familiar with the cozy mystery: quaint country side, quirky-but-endearing characters, random corpse, a place where murder rarely happens.
Nowadays, people dress up cozies with animals and recipes but when Christie was writing them, they had a tinge of the hardboiled in them. Not much; Christie will never be confused for Raymond Chandler. But just enough.
I don’t know if Margaret Millar’s Fire Will Freeze is a critique or satire of Christie’s work (which was popular at the time this was written) or maybe just her own response to it. It has the structure of a Christie mystery but it’s almost an anti-Christie. It’s a Christie book if all her characters were loathsome or annoying.
And that’s both a benefit and a drawback. I’m not a diehard Christie reader; some of her stuff is better than others and I appreciate her technical expertise. But what I often appreciate about Margaret Millar is, like Gillian Flynn today, how she’s able to make most of her characters so unsympathetic as to challenge the reader to care about them. It can make reading seem like a task for some but if you add a good plot to it, you have a fascinatingly readable book.
But the drawback is: the characters are dull in addition to being unsympathetic. And the mystery is fine, if imperfectly executed. Millar wrote this early in her career and I would have loved to seen a better version with her having a betters sense of her style. So all in all, it was a decent, subversive take on a familiar genre.