First published in 1950, The House That Stood Still combines a Raymond Chandler style noir mystery with a science fiction thriller complete with robots, spaceships and telepaths. Allison Stephens is a property management attorney for the wealthy Mr. Tannahill, owner of the Grand House. While working late in his office, Allison responds to a scream in the night and finds a mysterious group in the office of a Mexican Import Company. Two murders follow, and Stephens embarks on investigation worthy of any police detective. Among the challenges he faces: a dead man whose grave is empty, a Mayan cult operating in Los Angeles, and his growing realization that the person he's talking to may not be the person he thinks he's talking to. Tied up in every piece of the mystery is the secret of the Grand House which has presided over Almirante, California since long before a Spanish conquistador appropriated it. Stephens' support group includes a member of the mysterious cult, the sexy and savvy Mistra Lanett, who, by turns, seduces and baffles Stephens, and a seemingly sincere robot space craft.
In this far reaching tale, van Vogt introduced many ideas now familiar in novels, films and TV: the international thriller of impending nuclear war, the undetectable mask used so often decades later by the Mission Impossible team, the hero with an "odd" gun (in Allison's case, a WWII Japanese Nambu pistol), immortality, a woman of immense power, and high speed story pacing. Long out of print, you can now read a remarkably modern novel.