My Book Notes: The Deadly Truth, 1941 (Dr Basil Willing #3) by Helen McCloy


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Agora Books, 2021. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 3255 KB. Print Length: 241 pages. ASIN: B08X9WPFZB. eISBN: 9781913099763. First published in the US in 1941 by William Morrow and Company, and in Great Britain in 1942 by Hamish Hamilton.

“Truth is always unpleasant and usually intolerable.”

Hellent-Book-3-Ebook-300x464Description: When psychologist Dr Basil Willing rents a cottage on Long Island for a vacation, he falls into the company of his landlady, Claudia Bethune and her friends.
But when Claudia throws a last minute dinner party with a special cocktail, Basil’s relaxing holiday takes a turn. It seems Claudia’s drink du jour has in fact been laced with a new truth serum. And as secrets begin to spill, everyone is on edge.
When morning comes, it seems there are some lasting effects to the night’s imbibing: the hostess herself is found dead at the table.
Now, all thoughts of holiday set aside, Dr Willing finds himself at the heart of the murder case. Will he be able to use his skills to untangle the lies from the truth and bring the killer to justice?

My Take: While visiting biochemist Roger Slater, in his laboratory at the Southerland Foundation, the eccentric and glamorous Claudia Bethune manages to get hold of an aluminium tube. The tube contains a new form of scopolamine, popular name “truth serum” because it creates a twilit state that kills the inhibitions making anyone under its effects to speak always the truth, regardless of its consequences. When Claudia leaves, Roger realises that  one of the tubes is missing. Knowing Claudia, he runs off but can’t catch her up on time. Claudia, a wealthy socialite, is known for playing pranks at her wild parties, and Roger fears Claudia might turn out being dangerous with the drug in her possession. Besides, the drug belongs to the lab, and he might looses his position as a researcher if it is found he has lost one of the tubes. Roger’s worst omens come true as soon as he finds out Claudia has organised that evening a small party dinner at her place in Blessingbourne, High Hampton. She has invited a small group of friends, all them under the pretext they are the only ones she really wants to see. Before dinner is served, Claudia offers her guests a welcome cocktail of her invention which she dubs “Moment of Truth. Roger no longer has the least of doubt that Claudia took away the tube and is concerned she would have mix the drug with the drink. It is known that the drug takes effect in fifteen minutes and lasts for about three hours. After that time, you fall asleep and, on waking, you revert to your normal estate.

Coincidentally, Dr Basil Willing, a psychiatrist who occasionally acts as a medical adviser to the New York district attorney’s office, has rented a summer hut that belongs to Claudia near Blessingbourne. In fact Claudia had invited him to her dinner party, but Willing had politely excused his attendance. However, upon returning at his hut during the early hours of the morning, he believes to have seen some flames through the window of Claudia’s house and he gets close to investigate. But there’s no fire. Instead Dr Willing finds Claudia slumped at the dinning table, strangled by her own emerald necklace. When the police arrive Dr Basil Witting, for the first time in his life, finds himself among the main suspects. And the question is what dark secrets could have come to light during the party, as to have caused Claudia’s murdered?

The Deadly Truth is the third instalment in Dr Basil Willing series, the second book I have read so far, and it won’t be the last. The story is highly engaging and unfolds at a nice pace. The plot is well crafted and the writing is superb. McCloy plays fair with the reader and, simultaneously, she makes us believe that anyone may have been the murderer and she will only unveiled us the truth of what has occurred in the last pages. Even when all the clues are within sight, I must admit I wasn’t able to properly read its true meaning. And yet, it might not be that important to discover who did it, as to discover the motivation of the murderer. Dr Basil Willing character may turn out being quite anodyne and he certainly doesn’t have the personality of other fictional sleuths, but this doesn’t worried me at all. McCloy’s strengths are in her writing, the description of the characters and the settings to which she brings to life in her books, and her dialogues. Helen McCloy has been a true discovery for me this year and I’m quite convinced she will soon become one of my favourite writers. I’m already halfway through her second book The Man in the Moonlight and I have more waiting to be read soon. It is a real joy to read her books.

I have to thank Crime Classics Advance Readers Club for providing a digital copy of this book for review through NetGalley, in exchange of an honest review.

The Deadly Truth has been reviewed, among others, at Pretty Sinister Books, ahsweetmysteryblog, The Grandest Game in the World, Vintage Pop Fictions, Crossexamining Crime, and Jason Half: writer.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Morrow Mystery (USA), 1941)

About the Author: Helen McCloy was born in New York City, on 6 June 1904 to writer Helen Worrell McCloy and William McCloy, managing editor of the New York Evening Sun. After discovering a love for Sherlock Holmes as young girl, McCloy began writing her own mystery novels in the 1930s. In 1938 she introduced her psychiatrist-detective Dr Basil Willing in her first novel, Dance of Death. Dr Basil Willing features in 13 McCloy’s novels as well as several short stories; however, both are best known from McCloy’s 1955 supernatural mystery Through a Glass, Darkly — hailed as her masterpiece and likened to John Dickson Carr. Although McCloy was known primarily as a mystery novelist, she published under the pseudonym Helen Clarkson also a science fiction story, The Last Day (1959), regarded as the first really technically well-informed novel on the subject. McCloy went on in the 1950s and 1960s to co-author the review column for a Connecticut newspaper. In 1950, she became the first female president of Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and in 1953, she was honoured with an Edgar® Award from the MWA for her critiques. She helped to establish MWA’s New England Chapter in 1971, and was named an MWA Grand Master in 1990. Her contributions to the genre are recognized today by the annual Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship to nurture talent in mystery writing—in fiction, nonfiction, playwriting, and screenwriting. Helen McCloy died in Boston, Massachusetts, on 1 December 1994. aged 90. Although, based on other sources, she died in 1992.

The Dr Basil Willing Mysteries: Dance of Death (1938) (UK title: Design for Dying); The Man in the Moonlight (1940); The Deadly Truth (1941); Cue for Murder (1942); Who’s Calling (1942); The Goblin Market (1943); The One That Got Away (1945); Through a Glass, Darkly (1950); Alias Basil Willing (1951); The Long Body (1955); Two-Thirds of a Ghost (1956); The Singing Diamonds aka Surprise, Surprise (1965) short stories; Mister Splitfoot (1968); Burn This (1980); and The Pleasant Assassin and Other Cases of Dr Basil Willing (Crippen & Landru, 2003) short stories, some of which originally appeared in The Singing Diamonds.

Other Fiction: Do Not Disturb (1943); Panic (1944); She Walks Alone (1948) aka Wish Your Were Dead; Better Off Dead (1949); Unfinished Crime aka He Never Came Back (1954); The Slayer and the Slain (1957); Before I Die (1963); The Further Side of Fear (1967); Question of Time (1971); A Change of Heart (1973); The Sleepwalker (1974); Minotaur Country (1975); Cruel as the Grave (1976) aka The Changeling Conspiracy; The Impostor (1977); and The Smoking Mirror (1979)

Recommended Short Stories: “Chinoiserie” (1935); “Through a Glass, Darkly” (1948) later expanded into a novel of the same name in 1950; “The Singing Diamonds” (1949); “Murder Stops the Music” (1957); and “Murphy’s Law” (1979).

Agora Books publicity page

Helen McCloy at Golden Age of Detection Wiki

Helen McCloy – by Michael E. Grost

Murder in Mind by Christine Poulson

Helen McCloy (1904-1994) – pseudonym Helen Clarkson

La cena de las verdades, de Helen McCloy (Editorial Molino, Biblioteca Oro, Serie Amarilla nº274, 1951)

“La verdad resulta siempre desagradable y, en ocasiones, insoportable”

51k8gUMx18L._SY264_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_ML2_Descripción: Cuando el psicólogo Dr. Basil Willing alquila una cabaña en Long Island para pasar unas vacaciones, se encuentra en compañia de su casera, Claudia Bethune y sus amigos.
Pero cuando Claudia organiza una cena de último minuto con un cóctel especial, las relajantes vacaciones de Basil empeoran. Parece que la bebida del día de Claudia está mezclada con un nuevo suero de la verdad. Y conforme los secretos comienzan a salir a la luz, todo el mundo se encunetra en vilo.
Cuando llega la mañana, parece que el consumo de la noche tiene algunas consecuencias permanentes: la propia anfitriona aparece muerta sobre la mesa.
Ahora, cualquier idea de vacaciones queda al margen, el Dr. Willing se encuentra en el centro de un caso de asesinato. ¿Podrá utilizar sus aptitudes para separar las mentiras de la verdad y poner al asesino a disposición de la justicia?

Mi opinión: Mientras visita al bioquímico Roger Slater, en su laboratorio de la Fundación Southerland, la excéntrica y glamurosa Claudia Bethune logra hacerse con un tubo de aluminio. El tubo contiene una nueva forma de escopolamina, conocida popularmente como “suero de la verdad” porque crea un estado crepuscular que mata las inhibiciones haciendo que cualquiera que esté bajo sus efectos diga siempre la verdad, independientemente de sus consecuencias. Cuando Claudia se va, Roger se da cuenta de que falta uno de los tubos. Conociendo a Claudia, sale corriendo pero no puede alcanzarla a tiempo. Claudia, una adinerada dama de la alta sociedad, es conocida por gastar bromas pesadas en sus fiestas salvajes, y Roger teme que Claudia pueda volverse peligrosa con la droga en su poder. Además, la droga pertenece al laboratorio y podría perder su puesto de investigador si se descubre que ha perdido uno de los tubos. Los peores augurios de Roger se hacen realidad tan pronto como se entera de que Claudia ha organizado esa noche una pequeña cena en su casa de Blessingbourne, High Hampton. Ha invitado a un pequeño grupo de amigos, todos ellos con el pretexto de que son los únicos a los que realmente quiere ver. Antes de que se sirva la cena, Claudia ofrece a sus invitados un cóctel de bienvenida de su invención al que denomina “Momento de la verdad”. Roger ya no tiene la menor duda de que Claudia le robó el tubo y le preocupa que haya mezclado la droga con la bebida. Se sabe que el fármaco hace efecto en quince minutos y dura unas tres horas. Pasado ese tiempo, te duermes y, al despertar, vuelves a tu estado normal.

Casualmente, el Dr. Basil Willing, un psiquiatra que ocasionalmente actúa como asesor médico de la oficina del fiscal de distrito de Nueva York, ha alquilado una cabaña de verano que pertenece a Claudia cerca de Blessingbourne. De hecho, Claudia lo había invitado a su cena, pero Willing había excusado cortésmente su asistencia. Sin embargo, al regresar a su cabaña durante las primeras horas de la mañana, cree haber visto unas llamas a través de la ventana de la casa de Claudia y se acerca a investigar. Pero no hay fuego. En cambio, el Dr. Willing encuentra a Claudia desplomada en la mesa del comedor, estrangulada por su propio collar de esmeraldas. Cuando llega la policía, el Dr. Basil Witting, por primera vez en su vida, se encuentra entre los principales sospechosos. Y la pregunta es ¿qué oscuros secretos pudieron haber salido a la luz durante la fiesta, como para haber causado el asesinato de Claudia?

The Deadly Truth es la tercera entrega de la serie del Dr Basil Willing, el segundo libro que he leído hasta ahora y no será el último. La historia es muy interesante y se desarrolla a un buen ritmo. La trama está bien elaborada y la escritura es excelente. McCloy juega limpio con el lector y, a la vez, nos hace creer que cualquiera puede haber sido el asesino y solo nos desvelará la verdad de lo ocurrido en las últimas páginas. Incluso cuando todas las pistas están a la vista, debo admitir que no pude leer correctamente su verdadero significado. Y, sin embargo, puede que no sea tan importante descubrir quién lo hizo, como descubrir la motivación del asesino. El personaje del Dr. Basil Willing puede resultar bastante anodino y ciertamente no tiene la personalidad de otros detectives de ficción, pero esto no me preocupa en absoluto. Los puntos fuertes de McCloy están en su escritura, la descripción de los personajes y los escenarios a los que da vida en sus libros y sus diálogos. Helen McCloy ha sido un verdadero descubrimiento para mí este año y estoy bastante convencido de que pronto se convertirá en una de mis escritoras favoritas. Ya estoy a la mitad de su segundo libro, The Man in the Moonlight y tengo más por leer pronto. Es un verdadero placer leer sus libros.

Tengo que agradecer a Crime Classics Advance Readers Club por proporcionarme una copia digital de este libro para su reseña a través de NetGalley, a cambio de una opinión sincera.

Acerca del autor: Helen McCloy nació en la ciudad de Nueva York, el 6 de junio de 1904, hijo de la escritora Helen Worrell McCloy y de William McCloy, editor en jefe del New York Evening Sun. Después de descubrir su afición por Sherlock Holmes cuando era niña, McCloy comenzó a escribir sus propias novelas de misterio en la década de 1930. En 1938 presenta a su psiquiatra-detective, el Dr. Basil Willing, en su primera novela, Dance of Death. El Dr. Basil Willing aparece en 13 novelas de McCloy, así como en varios relatos; sin embargo, ambos son más conocidos por el misterio sobrenatural de McCloy de 1955 Through a Glass, Darkly, aclamado como su obra maestra a semejanza de John Dickson Carr.

McCloy pasó a ser coautora de una columna de reseñas para un periódico de Connecticut en las décadas de 1950 y 1960. En 1950, se convirtió en la primera mujer en presidir la Asociación de Escritores de Misterio de Estados Unidos (Mystery Writers of America, MWA) y en 1953, fue galardonada con un premio Edgar® de la MWA por sus reseñas. Contribuyó a crear la sección de Nueva Inglaterra de la MWA en 1971 y fue nombrada Gran Maestro de la MWA en 1990. Sus contribuciones al género son reconocidas hoy por la Beca anual Helen McCloy/MWA para fomentar el talento en la literatura de misterio, en ficción, no ficción, textos dramáticos y guiones. Helen McCloy murió en Boston, Massachusetts, el 1 de diciembre de 1994, a los 90 años. Aunque segín otras fuentes falleció en 1992.

Serie de misterio del Dr. Basil Willing: Dance of Death (1938) (UK title: Design for Dying); The Man in the Moonlight (1940); The Deadly Truth (1941) (Título en español: La cena de las verdades, Ed. Molino, 1951); Cue for Murder (1942); Who’s Calling (1942); The Goblin Market (1943); The One That Got Away (1945); Through a Glass, Darkly (1950); Alias Basil Willing (1951); The Long Body (1955); Two-Thirds of a Ghost (1956); The Singing Diamonds (1965) libro de relatos; Mister Splitfoot (1968); Burn This (1980); and The Pleasant Assassin and Other Cases of Dr Basil Willing (Crippen & Landru, 2003) relatos breves, algunos de ellos publicados originalmente en The Singing Diamonds.

Otras Obras Recomendadas: Unfinished Crime (1954); The Further Side of Fear (1967); The Sleepwalker (1974); The Impostor (1977).

Relatos Breves Recomendados: “Chinoiserie” (1935); “Through a Glass, Darkly” (1948); “The Singing Diamonds” (1949); “Murder Stops the Music” (1957); and “Murphy’s Law” (1979).

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