A Year in Review

Since it is more than probable that I will not post any other entry in A Crime is Afoot before next year I would not like to miss this opportunity to give you a flavour of what 2021 has been like reading wise.

The 2021 highlight was the possibility that Bodies From The Library provided me to attend, via Zoom, their 2021 conference, what lead me to read the following books:

      1. Howdunit A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club, 2020 Conceived and Edited by Martin Edwards
      2. When Last I Died, 1941 (Mrs Bradley # 13) by Gladys Mitchell
      3. The Rising of the Moon, 1945 (Mrs Bradley #18) by Gladys Mitchell
      4. The Saltmarsh Murders, 1932 (Mrs Bradley # 4) by Gladys Mitchell read in 2020
      5. The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye, 1928 (Anthony Bathurst Mysteries Book #3) by Brian Flynn read in 2019
      6. The Murders near Mapleton, 1929 (Bathurst Mysteries Book # 4) by Brian Flynn read in 2020
      7. Murder en Route: An Anthony Bathurst Mystery, 1930 (Anthony Bathurst Mysteries Book # 8) by Brian Flynn read in 2020
      8. The Fortescue Candle, 1936 (Anthony Bathurst Mysteries # 18) by Brian Flynn
      9. Tread Softly, 1937 (Anthony Bathurst Mysteries # 20) by Brian Flynn
      10. The Grindle Nightmare, 1935 by Q. Patrick
      11. Black Widow (A Peter Duluth Mystery #8), 1952 by Patrick Quentin
      12. Death’s Old Sweet Song, 1946 (Dr. Westlake #8) by Jonathan Stagge
      13. The Cases of Lieutenant Timothy Trant s.s. collection (2019) by Q. Patrick currently reading
      14. Hunt in the Dark (2021) s.s. collection by Q. Patrick, which I’m planning to read next

I would love if this experience could be repeated next year, via Zoom, since the possibilities I have to physically attend the Bodies From the Library conference in 2022 are slim.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading (only one book by author, with the exception of John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson):

      1. The Judas Window, 1938 (Sir Henry Merrivale # 7) by John Dickson Carr, writing as Carter Dickson
      2. The First Time He Died (1935) by Ethel Lina White
      3. Mr Splitfoot, 1968 (Dr. Basil Willing #12) by Helen McCloy
      4. The Eye of Osiris, 1911 (Dr Thorndyke Mysteries #3) by R. Austin Freeman
      5. The Seventh Guest (1935) by Gaston Boca (transl. John Pugmire)
      6. The Lying Voices (1954) by Elizabeth Ferrars
      7. He Who Whispers, 1946 (Dr Gideon Fell # 16) by John Dickson Carr
      8. The Robthorne Mystery, 1934 (Dr Priestley #18) by John Rhode

I want to make special mention of an author I have recently discovered whose oeuvre I look forward to reading soon

Roger Ormerod (1920 –2005) was a rather prolific British writer of ingenious and densely plotted crime novels which were published in the UK and the US. He lived in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, and amongst other things worked as a civil servant and as a Social Security inspector – backgrounds which he made full use of in his fiction, as he did with his hobbies of painting and photography. He wrote, if my information is correct, at least twelve standalone books; six novels in a series featuring Philipa Lowe and Oliver Simpson; 16 books in a series featuring private detective David Mallin; and 13 in his Richard and Amelia Patton series, for a total of 47 books published between 1974 and 1999, that I have identified.

Last but not least, I do want to thank Jason Half his kind invitation to take part in the Mitchell Reading Group. The December 2021 title has been Groaning Spinney (1950). For further information visit Jason Half blog, Post #1, Post #2, Post #3 and, coming soon, Post #4. This experience has enable me to realise multiple aspects of the book that, otherwise, I would have overlooked.

My Book Notes: Campion at Christmas – 4 Holiday Stories (2018) by Margery Allingham

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Agora Books, 2018. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 2990 KB. Print Length: 52 pages. ASIN: ‎ B07KYSX6NW. ISBN: N/A.

Campion-at-Christmas-Cover-300x450Product Desciption: A collection of festive stories perfect for the holidays.

Perhaps it’ll start being Christmas now you’re here…

And who better to spend a cosy Christmas with than ingenious and affable investigator, Albert Campion.

Featuring two classic Campion mysteries and two special holiday tales, this short story collection from Queen of Crime, Margery Allingham, is the perfect Christmas treat for any Golden Age Crime enthusiast. Filled with traditional British charm, snow covered crime scenes, and just a touch of Christmas magic, these festive stories are perfect for the season.

Campion at Christmas includes ‘On Christmas Day in the Morning’ (First published in Great Britain in The Mysterious Mr Campion by Chatto & Windus in 1963), ‘Happy Christmas’ (First published in Great Britain in Woman’s Own Magazine, Christmas Edition in 1962), ‘The Case of the Man with the Sack’ (First published in the United States in Mr Campion: Criminologist by Doubleday in 1973), and ‘Word in Season: A Story for Christmas’ (First published in Great Britain in Mr Campion’s Lady by Chatto & Windus in 1965) .An earlier version, ‘A Word in Season’, had appeared in 1955.

My Take: Campion at Christmas is a short story collection I thought quite appropriate to read at this time of year even though, strictly speaking, only in three of the stories does Albert Campion show up, and only two can be considered detective fiction, the other two are Christmas tales. Besides, some of Margery Allingham’s books have been on my radar for quite some time and and I look forward to reading them soon.

‘On Christmas Day in the Morning’ revolves around the mysterious death of a postman in a hit and run. Two drunken suspects driving a stolen car were arrested but couldn’t be formally charged of the postman’s death. According to some people, who had received letters that same day, the route followed by the postman before he died, made it almost impossible to hold them accountable for the running over. Fortunately Albert Campion was at hand.

‘Merry Christmas’, tells the story of a young couple, with a passion for 19th century memorabilia, who decide to celebrate a traditional Victorian Christmas. When, for different reasons, all their friends leave them alone, they request the help of an old lady who lives on the top floor. The lady provides them with lots of advices and hints to carry out their purpose and, in gratitude, they invite her for Christmas dinner. Thus, the old lady won’t find herself alone on such special day.

In ‘The Case of the Man with the Sack’ Albert Campion receives an invitation from Sheila Turrett to spend Christmas with her family at Pharaoh’s Court, along with the Welkins, rich and snobbish, and Mike Peters, a young man who tries to get rid of the bad reputation of his father. There is some confusion over who will be playing the role of Santa at the children’s party. As the party goes on, there’s a burglary at Pharaoh’s Court and Mrs Welkin’s expensive diamond necklace disappears. Fortunately, Mr Campion is there to figure out what had happened.

Finally, in ‘Word In Season: A Story for Christmas’ we learn that on Christmas Eve, during the hour before midnight, all pets are given the power to speak, and Poins, Albert’s red setter, torn between saying something or remaining silent.

In short, this was a light read, that can be read more or less in an hour, with which to enjoy a relaxing moment these days. Needless to say that my favourites were the two detective fiction short stories. A nice stuff.

About the Author: Margery Louise Allingham (1904 – 1966) is ranked among the most distinguished and beloved detective fiction writers of the Golden Age alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh. Allingham is J.K. Rowling’s favourite Golden Age author and Agatha Christie said of Allingham that out of all the detective stories she remembers, Margery Allingham ‘stands out like a shining light’. She was born in Ealing, London in 1904 to a very literary family; her parents were both writers, and her aunt ran a magazine, so it was natural that Margery too would begin writing at an early age. She wrote steadily through her school days, first in Colchester and later as a boarder at the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge, where she wrote, produced, and performed in a costume play. After her return to London in 1920 she enrolled at the Regent Street Polytechnic, where she studied drama and speech training in a successful attempt to overcome a childhood stammer. There she met Phillip Youngman Carter, who would become her husband and collaborator, designing the jackets for many of her future books. The Allingham family retained a house on Mersea Island, a few miles from Layer Breton, and it was there that Margery found the material for her first novel, the adventure story Blackkerchief Dick (1923), which was published when she was just nineteen. She went on to pen multiple novels, some of which dealt with occult themes and some with mystery, as well as writing plays and stories – her first detective story, The White Cottage Mystery, was serialized in the Daily Express in 1928, it contained atypical themes for a woman writer of the era. Her breakthrough occurred in 1929 with the publication of The Crime at Black Dudley. This introduced Albert Campion, albeit originally as a minor character. He returned in Mystery Mile, thanks in part to pressure from her American publishers, much taken with the character. Campion proved so successful that Allingham made him the centrepiece of another 17 novels and over 20 short stories, continuing into the 1960s. After a battle with breast cancer, Margery died in 1966. Her husband finished her last novel, A Cargo of Eagles at her request, and published it posthumously in 1968.

Selected Bibliography: Police at the Funeral (Albert Campion Mysteries #4, 1931); Sweet Danger (Albert Campion Mysteries #5, 1933: US title Kingdom of Death / The Fear Sign); Death of a Ghost (Albert Campion Mysteries #6, 1934); Flowers for the Judge (Albert Campion Mysteries #7, 1936: US title Legacy in Blood); The Case of the Late Pig (Albert Campion Mysteries #8, 1937: originally appeared in Mr Campion: Criminologist; Dancers in Mourning (Albert Campion Mysteries #9, 1937: US title Who Killed Chloe?); The Fashion in Shrouds (Albert Campion Mysteries #10, 1938); Traitor’s Purse (Albert Campion Mysteries #11, 1941: US title The Sabotage Murder Mystery); More Work for the Undertaker (Albert Campion Mysteries #13, 1948); The Tiger in the Smoke (Albert Campion Mysteries #14, 1952); The Beckoning Lady (Albert Campion Mysteries #15, 1955: U.S. title: The Estate of the Beckoning Lady); and Hide My Eyes (Albert Campion Mysteries #16, 1958: US title Tether’s End / Ten Were Missing).

Mr. Campion and Others (1939) is Allingham’s most important collection. It exists in two versions, a hardback from 1939, which mixes Campion and non-Campion tales, and a later, all Campion paperback. I much prefer the all Campion version. All of these Campion stories were published in The Strand magazine in 1936 – 1940. Even the more minor tales in the collection, such as “The Widow” (1937), “The Danger Point” (1937), “The Frenchman’s Gloves” (1938) and “The White Elephant” (1936), have their charms, and the collection should probably be read as a whole. Although unfortunately not included in Mr. Campion and Others, such fine Campion Christmas stories as “The Case is Altered” (1938) and “The Man with the Sack” (1936) also belong to this series of Strand tales. They are included in other Allingham collections. (Mike Grost)

A complete list of Margery Allingham bibliography can be found at Golden Age of Detection Wiki.

Agora Books publicity page

Classic Crime Fiction

The Margery Allingham Society

Margery Allingham

A Writer to Remember: Margery Allingham by H.R.F. Keating

The Great Detectives: Albert Campion by Mike Ripley

Margery Allingham at The Grandest Game in the World

Campion en Navidad – 4 historias festivas, de Margery Allingham

Descripción del producto: Colección de relatos festivos perfecta para estas fiestas.

Quizás empiece a ser Navidad ahora que están aquí …

Y quién mejor para pasar una Navidad acogedora que el ingenioso y afable investigador Albert Campion.

Con dos misterios clásicos de Campion y dos cuentos navideños especiales, esta colección de relatos de la reina del crimen, Margery Allingham, es el regalo navideño perfecto para cualquier entusiasta de la novela policiaca de la Edad de Oro. Llenas de encanto tradicional británico, escenas de crimen cubiertas de nieve con un toque de magia navideña, estas historias festivas son perfectas para esta temporada.

Campion at Christmas incluye ‘On Christmas Day in the Morning’ (Publicado por primera vez en Gran Bretaña en The Mysterious Mr Campion por Chatto & Windus en 1963), ‘Happy Christmas’ (Publicado por primera vez en Gran Bretaña en la edición de Navidad de la revista Woman’s Own, en 1962), ‘The Case of the Man with the Sack’ (Publicado por primera vez en los Estados Unidos en Mr Campion: Criminologist por Doubleday en 1973) y ‘Word in Season: A Story for Christmas’ (Publicado por primera vez en Gran Bretaña en Mr Campion’s Lady por Chatto & Windus en 1965). Una versión anterior, A Word in Season, apareció en 1955.

Mi opinión: Campion en Navidad es una colección de relatos que consideré bastante apropiada para leer en esta época del año aunque, estrictamente hablando, solo en tres de los relatos aparece Albert Campion, y solo dos pueden considerarse relatos policiacos, los otros dos son cuentos de Navidad. Además, algunos de los libros de Margery Allingham han estado en mi radar durante bastante tiempo y espero leerlos pronto.

‘On Christmas Day in the Morning’ gira en torno a la misteriosa muerte de un cartero tras ser atropellado por un coche que se dió a la fuga. Dos sospechosos ebrios que conducían un automóvil robado fueron arrestados, pero no pudieron ser acusados ​​formalmente de la muerte del cartero. Según algunas personas, que habían recibido cartas ese mismo día, la ruta seguida por el cartero antes de morir hacía casi imposible responsabilizarlos del atropello. Afortunadamente, Albert Campion estaba cerca.

‘Merry Christmas’, cuenta la historia de una joven pareja, apasionada por los objetos de recuerdo del siglo XIX, que deciden celebrar una tradicional Navidad victoriana. Cuando, por diferentes motivos, todos sus amigos los dejan solos, solicitan la ayuda de una señora mayor que vive en el último piso. La señora les brinda muchos consejos y sugerencias para llevar a cabo su propósito y, en agradecimiento, la invitan a la cena de Navidad. Así, la señora mayor no se encontrará sola en una ocasión tan especial.

En ‘The Case of the Man with the Sack’, Albert Campion recibe una invitación de Sheila Turrett para pasar la Navidad con su familia en Pharaoh’s Court, junto a los Welkins, ricos y snobs, y Mike Peters, un joven que intenta librarse de la mala fama de su padre. Existe cierta confusión sobre quién interpretará el papel de Santa en la fiesta infantil. A medida que avanza la fiesta, hay un robo en Pharaoh’s Court y el costoso collar de diamantes de la Sra. Welkin desaparece. Afortunadamente, el Sr. Campion está allí para averiguar qué sucedió.

Finalmente, en ‘Word In Season: A Story for Christmas’ nos enteramos que en la víspera de la Navidad, durante la hora que precede a la medianoche, todas las mascotas reciben el don de hablar, y Poins, el setter castaño de Albert, se debate entre decir algo o permanecer en silencio.

En definitiva, una lectura ligera, que se puede leer más o menos en una hora, con la que disfrutar de un momento de relax en estas fechas. No hace falta decir que mis favoritos fueron los dos relatos policíacos. Un buen material.

Acerca del autor: Margery Louise Allingham (1904 – 1966) se encuentra entre las escritoras de novela policíaca más distinguidas y queridas de la Edad de Oro junto con Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers y Ngaio Marsh. Allingham es la autora favorita de la Edad de Oro de J.K. Rowling y Agatha Christie dijo de ella que, de entre todas las historias de detectives que recuerda, Margery Allingham “sobresale como una luz resplandeciente”. Nació en Ealing, Londres en 1904 en una familia muy literaria; sus padres eran escritores y su tía tenía una revista, por lo que era natural que Margery también comenzara a escribir a una edad temprana. Escribió de manera constante durante sus días escolares, primero en Colchester y luego como interna en la Perse School for Girls de Cambridge, donde escribió, produjo y actuó en una obra de teatro. Después de su regreso a Londres en 1920, se matriculó en el Politécnico de Regent Street, donde se formó en arte dramático y dicción en un intento exitoso de superar un tartamudeo infantil. Allí conoció a Phillip Youngman Carter, quien se convertiría en su marido y colaborador, diseñando las sobrecubiertas de muchos de sus futuros libros. La familia Allingham conservó una casa en la isla de Mersea, a pocas millas de Layer Breton, y fue allí donde Margery encontró el material para su primera novela, la historia de aventuras Blackkerchief Dick (1923), que publicó cuando tenía solo diecinueve años. Continuó escribiendo varias novelas, algunas de las cuales trataban sobre temas ocultos y otras sobre misterio, además de escribir obras de teatro e historias: su primera historia policíaca, The White Cottage Mystery, se publicó por entregas en el Daily Express en 1928, contenía historias sobre temas atípicos para una escritora de la época. Su descubrimiento se produjo en 1929 con la publicación de The Crime at Black Dudley. En ella introduce a Albert Campion, aunque originalmente como un personaje secundario. Regresó en Mystery Mile, gracias en parte a la insistencia de sus editores estadounidenses, muy impresionados con el personaje. Campion tuvo tanto éxito que Allingham lo convirtió en la pieza central de otras 17 novelas y más de 20 relatos breves, hasta la década de 1960. Después de una batalla contra el cáncer de mama, Margery murió en 1966. Su marido, a petición suya, terminó su última novela, A Cargo of Eagles publicada póstumamente en 1968.

Bibliografía seleccionada: Policía en el funeral (Misterios de Albert Campion # 4, 1931); El signo del miedo / Crimen en el gran mundo (Misterios de Albert Campion # 5, 1933); La muerte de un fantasma (Misterios de Albert Campion # 6, 1934); Flores para el juez (Misterios de Albert Campion # 7, 1936); El caso del difunto Pig (Albert Campion Mysteries # 8, 1937: apareció originalmente en Mr Campion: Criminologist; Duelo en el ballet (Albert Campion Mysteries # 9, 1937); La moda en mortajas (Albert Campion Mysteries # 10, 1938); Traitor’s Purse (Albert Campion Mysteries # 11, 1941); Más trabajo para el enterrador (Albert Campion Mysteries # 13, 1948); El tigre en la niebla (Albert Campion Mysteries # 14, 1952); The Beckoning Lady / The Estate of the Beckoning Lady (Albert Campion Mysteries # 15, 1955); y Hide My Eyes / Tether’s End (Albert Campion Mysteries # 16, 1958).

Mr Campion and Others (1939) es la colección más importante de Allingham. Existe en dos versiones, una de tapa dura de 1939, que mezcla cuentos con Campion y sin Campion, y una posterior, de bolsillo con solo relatos de Campion. Prefiero esta última versión. Todas estas historias de Campion se publicaron en la revista The Strand entre 1936 y 1940. Incluso los relatos menores de la colección, como ‘The Widow’ (1937), ‘The Danger Point’ (1937), ‘The Frenchman’s Gloves’ (1938) y ‘The White Elephant’ (1936), tienen su encanto, y la colección probablemente debería leerse en su totalidad. Aunque. lamentablemente no se incluyen en Mr Campion and Others, también pertenecen a la serie de relatos publicados en The Strand cuentos de Navidad de Campion como ‘The Case is Altered’ (1938) y ‘The Man with the Sack’ (1936), incluidos en otras colecciones de Allingham. (Mike Grost).

Sébastien Japrisot

Call me unconscious. Just in case I had few books, I gifted myself three books by Sébastien Japrisot:

The Sleeping Car Murders (Compartiment tueurs);

Trap for Cinderella (Piège pour Cendrillon);

and Rider on the Rain (Le Passager de la pluie).

If the name Sébastien Japrisot doesn’t ring a bell, you can find the following information on Wikipedia:

Sébastien Japrisot (4 July 1931 – 4 March 2003) was a French author, screenwriter and film director. His pseudonym was an anagram of Jean-Baptiste Rossi, his real name. Renowned for subverting the rules of the crime genre, Japrisot broke down the established formulas “into their component pieces to re-combine them in original and paradoxical ways.” Some critics argue that though Japrisot’s work may lack the explicit experimental element present in the novels of some of his contemporaries, it shows influences of structuralist theories and the unorthodox techniques of the New Novelists. He remains little known in the English-speaking world, though all his novels have been translated into English and all but one of them have been made into films.

Bibliography: The 10.30 from Marseilles (1963) aka The Sleeping Car Murders; Trap for Cinderella (1964); The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun (1967); Goodbye, Friend (1969); One Deadly Summer (1980); Women in Evidence (1990) aka The Passion of Women; A Very Long Engagement (1993); and Rider on the  Rain (1999).

I’m looking forward to reading The Sleeping Car Murders. Stay tuned.


When the night train pulled into Paris, she was dead. And the riddle began . . .

A beautiful young woman lies sprawled on her berth in the sleeping car of the night train from Marseille to Paris. She is not in the embrace of sleep, or even in the arms of one of her many lovers. She is dead. And the unpleasant task of finding her killer is handed to overworked, crime-weary police detective Pierre ‘Grazzi’ Grazziano, who would rather play hide-and-seek with his little son than cat and mouse with a diabolically cunning, savage murderer.

Sébastien Japrisot takes the reader on an express ride of riveting suspense that races through a Parisian landscape of lust, deception and death. With corpses turning up everywhere, the question becomes not only who is the killer, but who will be the next victim . . . (Belgravia Books)

McCloy, Helen (1904 – 1994) [Updated on 12 December 2021]

descargaHelen McCloy, in full Helen Worrell Clarkson McCloy, was a prolific writer of mystery novels and a major influence on the genre. She wrote as Helen McCloy and as Helen Clarkson.

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. She was educated at the Brooklyn Friends School, run by Brooklyn’s Quaker community. At fourteen, she published a literary essay in the Boston Transcript; at fifteen, she published verse in the New York Times. She lived in France for eight years, studying at the Sorbonne in 1923 and 1924. McCloy was Paris correspondent for the Universal News Service (1927-31) and the monthly art magazine International Studio (1930-31). She also was London correspondent for the Sunday New York Times art section and wrote political sketches for the London Morning Post and the Daily Mail.

After discovering a love for Sherlock Holmes as young girl, McCloy began writing her own mystery novels in the 1930s. In 1938, shortly after her return to the US, she introduced her psychiatrist-detective Dr Basil Willing in her first novel, Dance of Death (1938). Dr Basil Willing features in 12 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. In Mr. Splitfoot (1968) Dr Basil Willing and his wife take shelter at a remote house in New England, where they must lodge in a haunted room. The title refers to the Devil, but Mr Splitfoot is also a symbol for the two sides of our nature, as Willing points out. The critic and mystery writer H.R.F. Keating in 1987 included this title among the 100 best crime and mystery books ever published. 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.

In 1946 McCloy married Davis Dresser, who had gained fame with his Mike Shayne novels, written under the pseudonym Brett Halliday. In 1948 they had a daughter, Chloe. She founded with Dresser the Torquil Publishing Company and a literary agency (Halliday and McCloy). Their marriage ended in 1961. McCloy went on in the 1950s and 1960s to co-author a 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 for Mystery Writing. Helen McCloy died in Boston, Massachusetts, on 1 December 1994. aged 90. Although according to 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).

In his introduction to a reprint edition of Cue for Murder, Anthony Boucher recalled the reception of Helen McCloy’s first novel, Dance of Death (1938): “Few first mysteries have received such generous critical praise, as the reviewers stumbled over each other to proclaim [the author] a genuine find … combining a civilized comedy of manners with the strictest of logical deduction.” (Mystery File)

Though largely forgotten today, McCloy, like so many worthy older crime writers, maintains a following among crime fiction connoisseurs.  She was an early prominent employer of psychiatry in detective fiction (many mystery writers of the period tended to ridicule it) and she has the literate style that today so many people tend to associate almost exclusively with the English Crime Queens Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh.  In an ideal world, McCloy would feature more prominently (or at all) in genre histories of detective fiction, because she was a notable practitioner within the genre.” (Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp)

“Helen McCloy is arguably the best American detective writer. (As I’ve said before, I see Carr as a British – or at most trans-Atlantic – writer.) I’ve only read a handful of her books (Design for Dying, The Goblin Market, Through a Glass Darkly, Mr Splitfoot, Cruel as the Grave and the excellent C&L short story collection The Pleasant Assassin), but there wasn’t a dud among them. Her books are subtle and well written, using morbid psychology, obscure historical facts and literary allusions to unsettle the reader and to fuel the extraordinary power of her plots. Through a Glass Darkly, for instance, is among the top twenty best detective stories ever written, both for the way in which its horror arises almost entirely from Jamesian understatement (suggestion and the incongruous presence of the normal create the feeling of something terribly wrong) and for the ambiguous solution.” (Nick Fuller on Helen McCloy)

Helen McCloy’s books and in particular her series featuring Dr Basil Willing have been one of my best discoveries this year. Fortunately Agora Books is re-issuing them. And I’m looking forward to reading soon Who’s Calling? (Dr Basil Willing # 5) that, if my information in correct, will be released soon.


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Morrow Mystery, US (1942)

The engagement of Archie, a young doctor, to night club artiste Frieda evokes ghostly phenomena when Archie takes Frieda to visit his mother near Washington.
Untraceable phone calls, vandalism – and a murder – all happen before Dr Basil Willing, psychologist-sleuth, takes over and solves the mystery.

Further Reading:

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