The decomposed body of a much-loved eight-year-old, Annamay Hyatt, is found in a wooded creekside area. To an agonizing degree everyone concerned with Annamay feels responsible. To an even more agonizing degree, someone is.
The effect of the child’s violent death runs through the community like a plague. It infects not only her parents and her cousin, Dru, the same age as Annamay, but everyone who lives or works in the area, from the aging gay who gives young parties to the white-robed con man who comes to the creek and hears a banshee.
Perhaps most bereft is Annamay’s grandfather who studies the ancient Japanese fish in the koi pond, appalled that they and he should still be alive while an eight-year-old is dead. Through a telescope he watches the retired madam who lives in her villa across the canyon, surrounded by keepers. The madam also hears the banshee.
Friends of the family are also badly infected, one of them fatally. These include Ben York, the young architect who designed the Hyatts’ house and the little girl’s play palace; his brash mistress who resents his attachment to the Hyatts; the minister who officiated at Annamay’s baptism and now her funeral and loses his faith in the process; and even the housekeeper, Chizzy, bewildered because Annamay did not heed her repeated warnings not to talk to strangers.
Margaret Millar is a highly praised, widely read novelist. Banshee shows why, for over four decades, she has maintained a steady and devoted following.