Three years after beating Isobel Tarks, his accomplice in a long series of petty robberies, into a coma for holding out his share of the proceeds, Frank Aldan ends the six-month parole that followed his Australian prison term with only one thought: revenge. Having already prepared his escape to New Zealand under a new identity, he stops by Isobel’s flat in Nurrung Court on a midsummer Christmas Eve and calmly shoots her dead. His plan works perfectly except for two hitches: His ex-wife and her relatives catch up with him before he can board his flight and drag him back to town; and, as he fumes and paces inside the lodging he’s found overlooking Isobel’s kitchen window, he gradually realizes that there’s someone still in her flat—a witness whose testimony could put him away for good. But because the witness is Virginia Segal, a holy terror of a girl her father has left with Isobel for the holiday while he chases a better job up north, she doesn’t know how to get out of the kitchen Isobel had locked her in when she recognized her final visitor—and none of her neighbors, watching her wave to them from the window high above Nurrung Court, believes she’s in any serious danger.
Like the young heroine of The Unquiet Night (p. 596), whose plot this 1967 tale follows perhaps a bit too closely (though a more obvious model is Charlotte Armstrong’s Mischief), Virginia is kept dangling between oblivious rescuers and a determined killer in another tour de force of suspense.