My Book Notes: The Man in the Moonlight, 1940 (The Dr Basil Willing Mysteries Book #2), by Helen McCloy

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Agora Books, 2020. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 3451 KB. Print Length: 284 pages. ASIN: B08PKYXL37. ISBN: 9781913099756. First published in the US in 1940 by William Morrow and Company, and in Great Britain in 1940 by Hamish Hamilton.

I take pleasure in informing you that you have been chosen as murderer for Group No 1. Please follow these instructions with as great exactness as possible.

The-Man-by-the-Moonlight-300x464Description: On his way to visit the dean at Yorkville University, Assistant Chief Inspector Foyle seems to stumble across a murder, or at least the plans for one.
Chalking it all up to a gag (because real killers don’t use the word ‘murder’), Foyle is horrified to learn about the death of Dr Konradi, a scientist at the campus.
Though it looks like a suicide, Foyle isn’t so sure, and Dr Basil Willing, psychologist and sleuth, is called in to aid the investigation.
With motives and murder piling up, the pair must solve the case before more lives are put at risk.

My Take: Assistant Chief Inspector Patrick Foyle, commanding the Detective Division of the New York Police Force, is considering to send his son to Yorkville University and he walks around the campus while examining the set of printed bulletins the Dean had given him. All of a sudden, something draws his attention. There’s a piece of paper amidst an immaculate lawn. It’s a carbon copy of a typewritten note that reads: I take pleasure in informing you that you have been chosen as murderer for Group No. 1. Please follow these instructions with as great exactness as possible …  A man interrupts him and asks him if he has found it. Apparently, he has just lost some papers written in German, notes on chemical experiments. Foyle shows him the note and asks him whether it makes any sense to him. The man introduces himself to Inspector Foyle as Dr Franz Konradi, a research professor in biological chemistry, and he doesn’t believe the note to be serious enough as to worry the Dean on that issue, and he hands it back to him. Foyle dismisses the matter as an initiation prank into some fraternity but, just before walking away, Dr Konradi tells him something that leaves him without response.

“If anything should happen this evening, I want you to remember one thing: I am just finishing important research, and nothing would induce me to commit suicide while it is still pending. Please understand that, Herr Inspector, and remember it. Not matter what happens –no matter what seems to happen– I shall not commit suicide.” 

This affair would have passed unnoticed were it not for the fact Dr Konradi is soon found dead with all indications of having committed suicide. What, undoubtedly, leaves many questions unanswered, despite evidence to the contrary. Consequently, Inspector Foyle requests the help of Dr Basil Willing, a psychiatrist attached to the district attorney’s office, to join him in the investigation.

The Man in the Moonlight is the second instalment in the series featuring Dr Basil Willing. McCloy provides us a superb portrait of the University in the United States at a very specific time, the early 40s when many refugees arrive at America fleeing the war and the Nazi persecution. The story is solid and interesting even though the characterisation is not as strong as in the other two books in the series I’ve read. I wasn’t able to glimpse the solution to the mystery which is mainly based on crime motivation rather than in who did it. As Basil Willing himself states in the text: ‘A lie always reflects the image of the truth; it inverts like a mirror.’ Another excellent addition to what it is already a magnificent series that basically stands out by the amount and quality of themes that treats.

The Man in the Moonlight has been reviewed, among others, at Pretty Sinister Books, Beneath the Stains of Time, and The Grandest Game in the World.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Morrow Mystery (USA), 1940)

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. McCloy was rather prolific, writing dozens of detection and suspense novels, short stories, and newspaper and magazine articles. She won Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine awards for the short stories “Through a Glass, Darkly” (reprinted in The Singing Diamonds, 1965) and “Chinoiserie” (reprinted in 20 Great Tales of Murder, 1951). 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

The Man in the Moonlight, de Helen McCloy

Me complace informarle que ha sido elegido como asesino del Grupo nº 1. Siga estas instrucciones con la mayor precisión posible.

Descripción: De camino para visitar al decano de la Universidad de Yorkville, el inspector jefe adjunto Foyle parece tropezar con un asesinato, o al menos con los planes para cometer uno.
Foyle lo atribuye todo a una broma (porque los verdaderos asesinos no usan la palabra “asesinato”), y Foyle se horroriza al enterarse de la muerte del Dr. Konradi, un científico del campus.
Aunque parece un suicidio, Foyle no está tan seguro, y el Dr. Basil Willing, psicólogo y detective, es llamado para ayudar en la investigación.
Con la acumulación de motivaciones y de asesinatos, la pareja debe resolver el caso antes de que se pongan en riesgo más vidas.

Mi opinión: El inspector jefe adjunto Patrick Foyle, al mando de la División de Detectives de la Policía de Nueva York, está considerando enviar a su hijo a la Universidad de Yorkville y camina por el campus mientras examina el conjunto de boletines impresos que el decano le había dado. De repente, algo llama su atención. Hay un trozo de papel en medio de un césped inmaculado. Es una copia al carbón de una nota mecanografiada que dice: Me complace informarle que ha sido elegido asesino para el Grupo No. 1. Siga estas instrucciones con la mayor exactitud posible … Un hombre lo interrumpe y le pregunta si lo ha encontrado. Al parecer, acaba de perder algunos apuntes escritos en alemán, notas sobre experimentos químicos. Foyle le muestra la nota y le pregunta si tiene algún sentido para él. El hombre se presenta al inspector Foyle como el Dr. Franz Konradi, profesor investigador en química biológica, y no cree que la nota sea lo suficientemente seria como para preocupar al decano sobre ese tema, y ​​se la devuelve. Foyle descarta el asunto como una broma de iniciación a una fraternidad pero, justo antes de alejarse, el Dr. Konradi le dice algo que lo deja sin respuesta.

“Si algo sucediera esta noche, quiero que recuerde una cosa: estoy terminando una investigación importante y nada me induciría a suicidarme mientras aún está pendiente. Por favor, comprenda eso, señor inspector, y recuérdelo. No importa lo que pase, no importa lo que parezca pasar, no me suicidaré “.

Este asunto habría pasado desapercibido si no fuera por el hecho de que el Dr. Konradi pronto es encontrado muerto con todos los indicios de haberse suicidado. Lo que, sin duda, deja muchas preguntas sin respuesta, a pesar de la evidencia en contrario. En consecuencia, el inspector Foyle solicita la ayuda del Dr. Basil Willing, un psiquiatra adjunto a la oficina del fiscal de distrito, para que se una a él en la investigación.

The Man in the Moonlight es la segunda entrega de la serie protagonizada por el Dr. Basil Willing. McCloy nos brinda un magnífico retrato de la Universidad en los Estados Unidos en un momento muy específico, principios de los 40, cuando muchos refugiados llegan a Estados Unidos huyendo de la guerra y de la persecución nazi. La historia es sólida e interesante a pesar de que la caracterización no es tan fuerte como en los otros dos libros de la serie que he leído. No pude vislumbrar la solución al misterio que se basa principalmente en la motivación del crimen más que en quién lo hizo. Como dice el mismo Basil Willing en el texto: “Una mentira siempre refleja la imagen de la verdad; se invierte como un espejo.” Otra excelente incorporación a la que ya es una magnífica serie que básicamente destaca por la cantidad y calidad de temas que trata.

Acerca del autor: Helen McCloy nació en la ciudad de Nueva York, el 6 de junio de 1904, hija de la escritora Helen Worrell McCloy y 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 presentó 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 breves; 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. Aunque McCloy era conocida principalmente como una novelista de misterio, también publicó bajo el seudónimo de Helen Clarkson una historia de ciencia ficción,The Last Day (1959), considerada la primera novela realmente bien fundamentada sobre el tema. McCloy pasó a ser coautora de la columna de reseñas de un periódico de Connecticut en las décadas de 1950 y 1960. McCloy fue bastante prolífica, escribiendo docenas de novelas de suspense y misterio, relatos breves y artículos en periódicos y revistas. Ganó los premios Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine por los relatos breves “Through a Glass, Darkly” (reeditado en The Singing Diamonds, 1965) y “Chinoiserie” (reeditado en 20 Great Tales of Murder, 1951). 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 galardonanda 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 Maestre de la MWA en 1990. Sus contribuciones al género son reconocidas hoy por la Beca anual Helen McCloy/MWA para fomentar el talento de la literatura de misterio, en ficción, no ficción, obras dramáticas y guiones. Helen McCloy murió en Boston, Massachusetts, el 1 de diciembre de 1994. a los 90 años. Aunque, según otras fuentes, murió 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); 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).