My Book Notes: Who’s Calling?, 1941 (Dr. Basil Willing #5) by Helen McCloy

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Agora Books, 2022. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 3033 KB. Print Length: 235 pages. ASIN: ISBN: 978-1-914904-51-6. First published in the US in 1942 by William Morrow Company.

Wouldn’t you like to know what a poltergeist is?

41fY446gJCLDescription: The engagement of Archie, a young doctor, to night club artiste Frieda sets off a sequence of eerie and seemingly unexplainable events, all starting with a strange, cruel warning on the telephone.
As the supernatural mysteries continue, a shocking murder takes place – and that can’t be explained by a ghost.
Dr Basil Willing steps in to help the four people involved in these hauntings answer the question: Could I have committed a murder without knowing it?

Who’s Calling? is the fifth book in Helen McCloy’s Dr Basil Willing Mystery series.

My Take: The story takes place during a weekend in Willow Spring (Maryland). It all begins when Frieda Frey receives an anonymous phone call from a voice she doesn’t recognise. She can’t even tell whether it is a man’s or a woman’s. Who’s calling, please? She replies impatiently. But the voice says it doesn’t matter who is calling. It just want to warn her. “Don’t go to Willow Spring. You are not wanted there.” “All sorts of unpleasant things happen to people who go where they are not wanted.”

The oddest thing about all this is that Archie Cranford, Frieda’s fiancé,  assures her he hasn’t tell anyone in New York they were going to spend the weekend at Willow Spring. The only ones who know about it are Archie’s mother Eve Cranford (née Lindsay), the Lindsays with whom they will be going to go dancing that night, and Ellis Blount, Mark Lindsay’s niece who lives with them. Archie is absolutely certain his mother has not have said a single word before announcing their forthcoming engagement, and without having meet her before. Mark Lindsay, by the way, is a US Senator. His wife Julia is the perfect wife and she knows it, she even writes his speeches for him. And their niece, Ellis Blount, is an old friend with whom he has spend his childhood.

Willow Spring was too far north to be Southern and too far south to be Norther. There was no railway station and no village – just a post office and a cluster of old homesteads and farms buried in the heart of the woods. Though it was within an hour drive of the national capital…
In the last twenty years some of the homesteads had been purchase by wandering artist, coupon clippers, retired admirals and Assistant Secretaries of State who liked the proximity to Washington. But the community was still dominated by descendants of the earlier landowners – Cranfords, Lindsays, Blounts and Winchesters, interbred almost as intricately as fruit flies in a biological laboratory.

A series of strange events takes place before the dinner that precedes the dance at the Lindsays’ place. The first is a second anonymous phone call to Frieda, urging her to leave Willow Spring immediately. Moreover, it is not an outside call but it came from within the same house. This is followed by the unexpected arrival of cousin Chalkley Winchester, Aunt Mabel’s son. After not hearing from him for a long time, Chalkley has invited himself claiming that he had important business to attend to in Willow Spring. And finally, when the maid goes to turn down the bed for Miss Frey, she finds her room upside down and on the mirror, scrawled in large letters with red lipstick, it can be read: YOU ARE NOT WANTED HERE. The evening ends suddenly when cousin Chalkley is found dead. Shortly before he had felt indisposed and thought it was indigestion but, in reality, he has been murdered, poisoned.

The next morning, Archie drives into Washington with a policeman, bringing Dr Basil Willing with them. Archie, a promising young psychiatry student, had attended some of his lectures in New York last winter and believes this case has a special interest for a psychiatrist. After listening to his story, Dr Willing is inclined to agree with him and is prepared to collaborate.

Helen McCloy is one of my favourite writers and Who’s Calling? has not disappointed me at all. The story is highly entertaining and I  particularly enjoyed McCloy’s political remarks together with the use she makes of the psychological elements. Elements that might seem somehow out-of-date nowadays but I believe they were trendy when the story was originally published. In any case, the characters are well drawn and turn out being interesting. The plot is perfectly crafted, and all its pieces end up fitting well together. At the end, all that has happened makes sense. However, I won’t go as far as to consider this novel among Helen McCloy’s bests, but it is entertaining enough as to recommend it without hesitation. I expect you enjoy it as much as I did.

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.

Who’s Calling? has been reviewed, among others, by Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp, Bev Hankins at My Reader’s Block, and Helen at She Read Novels.

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

About the Author: Helen Worrell Clarkson McCloy (1904 – 1994),best known as Helen McCloy, was an American mystery writer whose series character Dr Basil Willing is a detective-psychologist. She also wrote as Helen Clarkson and she exerted a decisive influence on the genre.

McCloy was born in New York City. Her mother was writer Helen Worrell McCloy and father, William McCloy, was the long-time managing editor of the New York Evening Sun. She was educated at Friend’s School, run by Brooklyn’s Quaker community. In 1923 Helen went to France where between 1923-4 she attended the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1927 to 1932 she first got a job as a correspondent for Hearst’s Universal News Service and, later, became an art critic for International Studio and other magazines, as well as a freelance contributor to London’s Morning Post and Parnassus.

In 1932, she returned to the USA spending several years writing magazine articles and short stories. In 1938 she published her first mystery novel, Dance of Death, where she introduced the character of psychiatrist-detective Dr Basil Willing, her most famous character. Dr Basil Willing appeared in 13 of her novels as well as several short stories. The eight instalment in her Basil Willing series, the novel Through a Glass Darkly, a puzzle in the supernatural tradition of John Dickson Carr, is generally regarded as her masterpiece.

In 1946, she married Davis Dressler, author of the Mike Shayne detective novels under the pseudonym Brett Halliday. With Dressler, she founded the Torquil Publishing Company and a literary agency called Halliday and McCloy. The couple had one daughter, Chloe. Their marriage ended in 1961.

McCloy went on in the 1950s and 1960s McCloy to co-author of review column for a Connecticut newspaper. In 1950 she became the first female to serve as president of Mystery Writers of America. Although McCloy was known primarily as a mystery novelist, she published under the pseudonym Helen Clarkson a science fiction story, The Last Day (1959), acknowledged as the first really technically well-informed novel on the subject.

McCloy, a rather prolific, produced twenty-nine novels and a couple of collections of short stories between 1938 and 1980. 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 1953, she was honoured with an Edgar Award for her critiques and, in 1990, she was named a Grand Master. McCloy helped to found in 1971 a New England chapter of the Mystery Writers of America in Boston. In 1987, critic and mystery writer H. R. F. Keating included her Basil Willing title Mr Splitfoot in a list of the 100 best crime and mystery books ever published. Helen McCloy died in 1994.

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); 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 aka Surprise, Surprise (1965) short stories.

Other Mystery Fiction: Do Not Disturb (1943); Panic (1944); She Walks Alone (1948) aka Wish Your Were Dead; Better Off Dead (1949); He Never Came Back (1954) aka Unfinished Crime; 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 Imposter (1977); 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

Who’s Calling?, de Helen McCloy

¿No le gustaría saber lo que es un poltergeist?

Descripción: El compromiso de Archie, un joven médico, con Frieda, una artista de un club nocturno, desencadena una serie de sucesos misteriosos e inexplicables en apariencia, comenzado con una extraña y cruel advertencia telefónica.
Conforme se suceden los sucesos sobrenaturales, tiene lugar un asesinato impactante, y eso no puede ser explicado por un fantasma.
El Dr. Basil Willing interviene para ayudar a las cuatro personas involucradas en estas apariciones a responder la pregunta: ¿Podría yo haber cometido un asesinato sin saberlo?

Who’s Calling? es el quinto libro de la serie de misterio protagonizada por el Dr. Basil Willing de Helen McCloy.

Mi opinión: La historia se desarrolla durante un fin de semana en Willow Spring (Maryland). Todo comienza cuando Frieda Frey recibe una llamada telefónica anónima de una voz que no reconoce. Ni siquiera puede decir si es de hombre o de mujer. ¿Quién está llamando? Por favor? Ella responde con impaciencia. Pero la voz dice que no importa quién llame. Solo quiere advertirla. “No vayas a Willow Spring. No te quieren allí“. “Todo tipo de cosas desagradables le suceden a la gente que va a donde no la quieren”.

Lo más curioso de todo esto es que Archie Cranford, el prometido de Frieda, le asegura que no le ha dicho a nadie en Nueva York que iban a pasar el fin de semana en Willow Spring. Los únicos que lo saben son la madre de Archie, Eve Cranford (de soltera Lindsay), los Lindsay con quienes irán a bailar esa noche, y Ellis Blount, la sobrina de Mark Lindsay que vive con ellos. Archie está absolutamente seguro de que su madre no ha dicho una sola palabra antes de anunciar su próximo compromiso y sin haberla conocido antes. Mark Lindsay, por cierto, es senador de los Estados Unidos. Su esposa Julia es la esposa perfecta y ella lo sabe, incluso le escribe sus discursos. Y su sobrina, Ellis Blount, es una vieja amiga con la que ha pasado su infancia.

Willow Spring estaba demasiado al norte para ser del sur y demasiado al sur para ser del norte. No tenía estación de tren ni pueblo, solo una oficina de correos y un grupo de antiguas casas y granjas enterradas en el corazón del bosque. Aunque estaba a una hora en coche de la capital de la nación…
En los últimos veinte años, algunas de las haciendas habían sido compradas por artistas errantes, cortadores de cupones, almirantes retirados y subsecretarios de Estado a quienes les gustaba la proximidad a Washington. Pero la comunidad todavía estaba dominada por los descendientes de los terratenientes anteriores: Los Cranford, Lindsay, Blount y Winchester, casados entre si de forma tan estrecha como moscas en un laboratorio biológico.

Una serie de sucesos extraños tienen lugar antes de la cena que precede al baile en casa de los Lindsay. La primera es una segunda llamada telefónica anónima a Frieda, instándola a abandonar Willow Spring de inmediato. Además, no es una llamada exterior sino que procedía de dentro de la misma casa. A esto le sigue la llegada inesperada del primo Chalkley Winchester, el hijo de la tía Mabel. Después de no saber nada de él durante mucho tiempo, Chalkley se autoinvitó alegando que tenía asuntos importantes que atender en Willow Spring. Y finalmente, cuando la criada va a prepararle la cama a la señorita Frey, encuentra su habitación patas arriba y en el espejo, garabateado en letras grandes con lápiz labial rojo, se puede leer: AQUÍ NO TE QUIEREN. La velada termina repentinamente cuando el primo Chalkley es encontrado muerto. Poco antes se había sentido indispuesto y pensó que era una indigestión pero, en realidad, ha sido asesinado, envenenado.

A la mañana siguiente, Archie conduce a Washington con un policía, trayendo consigo al Dr. Basil Willing. Archie, un joven y prometedor estudiante de psiquiatría, había asistido a algunas de sus conferencias en Nueva York el invierno pasado y cree que este caso tiene un interés especial para un psiquiatra. Después de escuchar su historia, el Dr. Willing se inclina a estar de acuerdo con él y se muestra dispuesto a colaborar.

Helen McCloy es una de mis escritoras favoritas y Who’s Calling? no me ha defraudado en absoluto. La historia es muy entretenida y disfruté especialmente los comentarios políticos de McCloy junto con el uso que hace de los elementos psicológicos. Elementos que pueden parecer algo anticuados hoy en día, pero creo que estaban de moda cuando se publicó originalmente la historia. En cualquier caso, los personajes están bien dibujados y resultan interesantes. La trama está perfectamente construida, y todas sus piezas terminan encajando bien. Al final, todo lo que ha pasado tiene sentido. Sin embargo, no iré tan lejos como para considerar esta novela entre las mejores de Helen McCloy, pero es lo suficientemente entretenida como para recomendarla sin dudarlo. Espero que lo disfruten tanto como yo.

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 Worrell Clarkson McCloy (1904 – 1994), más conocida como Helen McCloy, fue una escritora de misterio estadounidense cuyo personaje de la serie, el Dr. Basil Willing, es un detective-psicólogo. También escribió como Helen Clarkson y ejerció una influencia decisiva en el género.

McCloy nació en la ciudad de Nueva York. Su madre fue la escritora Helen Worrell McCloy y su padre, William McCloy, fue durante mucho tiempo jefe de redacción del New York Evening Sun. Fue educada en Friend’s School, dirigida por la comunidad cuáquera de Brooklyn. En 1923, Helen se fue a Francia, donde entre 1923 y 1924 asistió a la Sorbona de París. De 1927 a 1932, primero consiguió un trabajo como corresponsal del Universal News Service de Hearst y, más tarde, se convirtió en crítica de arte para International Studio y otras revistas, así como colaboradora independiente de Morning Post y Parnassus de Londres.

En 1932, regresó a los Estados Unidos y pasó varios años escribiendo artículos y relatos para revistas. En 1938 publicó su primera novela de misterio, Dance of Death, donde presentó al personaje del psiquiatra-detective Dr. Basil Willing, su personaje más famoso. El Dr. Basil Willing apareció en 13 de sus novelas. La octava entrega de su serie Basil Willing, la novela Through a Glass Darkly, un enigma en la tradición sobrenatural de John Dickson Carr, generalmente se considera su obra maestra.

En 1946, se casó con Davis Dressler, autor de las novelas policiacas de Mike Shayne bajo el seudónimo de Brett Halliday. Con Dressler, fundó Torquil Publishing Company y una agencia literaria llamada Halliday and McCloy. La pareja tuvo una hija, Chloe. Su matrimonio terminó en 1961.

En las décadas de 1950 y 1960, McCloy fue coautora de una columna de crítica literaria para los periódicos de Connecticut y en 1950 se convirtió en la primera mujer en ocupar el cargo de presidenta de Mystery Writers of America. Aunque McCloy era conocida principalmente como novelista de misterio, publicó bajo el seudónimo de Helen Clarkson una historia de ciencia ficción, The Last Day (1959), reconocida como la primera novela técnicamente bien informada sobre el tema.

McCloy, una escritora bastante prolífica, publicó veintinueve novelas y un par de colecciones de cuentos entre 1938 y 1980. Ganó los premios Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine por los relatos “Through a Glass, Darkly” (reeditado en The Singing Diamonds, 1965). ) y “Chinoiserie” (reeditado en 20 Great Tales of Murder, 1951). En 1953 recibió un premio Edgar por sus reseñas y en 1990 fue nombrada Grand Master. McCloy también ayudó a fundar en 1971 la sección en Nueva Inglaterra de Mystery Writers of America en Boston. En 1987, el crítico y escritor de misterio H. R. F. Keating incluyó su título de Basil Willing Mr Splitfoot en una lista de los 100 mejores libros de misterio y crimen jamás publicados. Helen McCloy murió en 1994.

The Dr. Basil Willing Mysteries: Dance of Death (1938) (UK title: Design for Dying, Spanish title: La fiesta de la muerte); The Man in the Moonlight (1940) (Spanish title: Un hombre bajo la luna); The Deadly Truth (1941) (Spanish title: La cena de las verdades); Cue for Murder (1942); Who’s Calling? (1942); The Goblin Market (1943); The One That Got Away (1945); Through a Glass, Darkly (1950) (Spanish title: Un reflejo velado en el cristal); Alias Basil Willing (1951) (Spanish title: Los pájaros no cantan); The Long Body (1955); Two-Thirds of a Ghost (1956); 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 aka Surprise, Surprise (1965) short stories.

Otras novelas de misterio: Do Not Disturb (1943); Panic (1944); She Walks Alone (1948) aka Wish Your Were Dead (Spanish title: Ella iba sola); Better Off Dead (1949); He Never Came Back (1954) aka Unfinished Crime; 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 Imposter (1977); The Smoking Mirror (1979)

Relatos recomendados: “Chinoiserie” (1935); “Through a Glass, Darkly” (1948) más tarde ampliado a la novela del mismo título de 1950; “The Singing Diamonds” (1949); “Murder Stops the Music” (1957); y “Murphy’s Law” (1979).

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.

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(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:

My Book Notes: Cue for Murder, 1942 (Dr Basil Willing # 4) by Helen McCloy

Esta entrada es bilingüe. Desplazarse hacia abajo para ver la versión en español

Agora Books, 9 December 2021. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 4379 KB. Print Length: 268 pages. ASIN: B09L4XGW5H. ISBN-13: 978-1-914904-51-6. First published in the US in 1942 by William Morrow and Company

‘Its a world of make-believe – false names and false faces! How can I tell which one of these is playing a part?’

Cue-for-Murder-eBook-Cover-300x464Description: On the New York stage, the scene is set for what appears to be the perfect murder. Within the first act of opening night, an actor is found dead during his scene, in full view of the audience and players. Even stranger, no one recognises the murdered man. But when all three suspects are trained in deception, figuring out which of them is the killer won’t be easy… Enter Dr Basil Willing. With the help of Assistant Chief Inspector Foyle, the psychiatrist-sleuth must use his understanding of the human mind to get to the bottom of this case. And it seems a canary and a housefly might be the only clues he needs to crack the case…

Cue for Murder is the fourth book in Helen McCloy’s Dr Basil Willing Mystery series.

My Take: The story takes place some months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and it begins on a plane from Washington to New York, where Dr Basil Willing reads by chance the following story in the Times under the heading “Burglar Frees Bird”:

Police are puzzled by the odd behaviour of a burglar who broke into Marcus Lazarus’ knife-grinding shop near West 44th Street shortly before dawn yesterday. Nothing was stolen, but the intruder opened the cage of Lazarus’ pet canary and set the bird free. The shop is hardly more than a shack in an alley leading to the stage door of the Royalty Theatre.

At the time, Dr Willing, who is working in the FBI’s New York office as a psychiatrist and as an investigator, thought that his knowledge of this “crime” would be limited to the few facts found in the newspapers. But next, he stops by police headquarters to greet his friend, Assistant Chief Inspector Foyle, and their conversation lead them to the canary’s story in the morning news. Foyle admits it was kind of funny when he got the report from the precinct this morning. He first  thought it might be a publicity stunt. Wanda Morley’s new show opens in the Royalty in a day or two, and the knife-grinder’s shop is right next door. But her press agent swears he doesn’t know a thing about it, and Wanda Morley’s name hasn’t been mentioned in connection with the case. However, Dr Willing, like most modern psychiatrists, believes that no human being can perform an act without a motive, conscious or unconscious.

In any case Dr Willing manages to get an invitation to attend the premiere of the play at the Royalty that same evening. The play is Fedora by Victorien Sardou, a minor work by a playwright who is perhaps best remembered today because another one of his plays, La Tosca, was turned into an opera by Puccini. Fedora was written for Sarah Bernhardt, and Wanda Morley, it is said, wants to resemble her in everything she does.

During the first act, a mortally wounded young revolutionary is taken to the house of his lover Fedora, the main character in the play. The lover is treated by a doctor and discovered by a policeman, but he dies at the end of the first act. The dying revolutionary has no lines and must remain motionless all time he is on stage. The only actors who have been close to him are Rodney Tait as the doctor, Leonard Martin as the policeman and, of course, Wanda Morley, who kisses him goodbye before dying. But when the curtain falls it is found that the young man is really dead. To everyone’s surprise, no one knows the actor (a figurant) who was playing that part. According to tradition, Sarah Bernhardt herself used to invite her lovers to play that role. The result is a murder, committed in front of the public, and with only three suspects. The only three actors that have been close to the victim during the first act. But it seems impossible to unravel the mystery of his death.

Despite some opinions in the contrary, I loved reading Cue for Murder. In my view, the plot is quite ingenious and entertaining. As far as I understand, it was a great hit when it was originally published, even though, for today standards, the story might seem to be a bit dated. In any case I enjoyed reading about the ins and outs of a Broadway theatre in the early 40s and, in this sense, the story is well documented. No doubt, McCloy was very familiar in that environment. All in all, its is extremely interesting to recover thanks to Agora Books another one of Helen McCloy’s works difficult to find. As an author, she has been one of my great discoveries this year. My gratitude also to Crime Classics Advance Readers Club for providing me a digital copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange of my honest opinion. If you like Helen McCloy as much as I do, you should not miss Cue for Murder.

Cue for Murder has been reviewed, among others, by Noah Stewart at Noah’s Archives, Robert E. Briney at Mystery File, Moira Redmond at Clothes in Books, Les Blatt at Classic Mysteries, Steve Lewis at Mystery File, Dan at The Reader is Warned, NIck Fuller at The Grandest Game in the World, Steve Barge at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, thegreencapsule at the Green Capsule, and TomCat at Beneath the Stains of Time.

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

About the Author: Helen McCloy was born in New York city in 1904 to writer Helen Worrell McCloy and managing editor William McCloy. After discovering a love for Sherlock Holmes as young girl, McCloy began writing her own mystery novels in the 1930s. In 1933, she introduced her psychiatrist-detective Dr Basil Willing in her first novel, Dance of Death. Dr Basil Willing features in 12 of 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. McCloy went on in the 1950s and 1960s to co-author a review column a Connecticut newspaper. In 1950, she became the first female president of Mystery Writers of America and in 1953, she was honoured with an Edgar Award from the MWA for her critiques. (Fuente: Agora Books)

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.

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

Cue for Murder, por Helen McCloy

“Es un mundo de fantasía: ¡nombres falsos y rostros falsos! ¿Cómo puedo saber cuál de ellos está desempeñando un papel? “

Descripción: En la cartelera de Nueva York, el escenario está listo para lo que parece ser el asesinato perfecto. En el primer acto de la noche del estreno, un actor es encontrado muerto durante su escena, a la vista del público y de los actores. Aún más extraño, nadie reconoce al hombre asesinado. Pero como los tres sospechosos están entrenados en el arte del disimulo, no será fácil averiguar cuál de ellos es el asesino … Entra en escena el Dr. Basil Willing. Con la ayuda del inspector jefe adjunto Foyle, el detective psiquiatra debe utilizar su conocimiento de la mente humana para llegar al fondo de este caso. Y parece que un canario y una mosca doméstica podrían ser las únicas pistas que necesita para resolver el caso …

Cue for Murder es el cuarto libro de la serie Dr Basil Willing Mystery de Helen McCloy.

Mi opinión: La historia tiene lugar unos meses después del ataque a Pearl Harbor y comienza en un avión de Washington a Nueva York, donde el Dr. Basil Willing lee por casualidad la siguiente historia en el Times bajo el título”Ladrón Libera Pájaro”:

La policía está desconcertada por el extraño comportamiento de un ladrón que irrumpió en la tienda de afilar cuchillos de Marcus Lazarus cerca de West 44th Street poco antes del amanecer de ayer. No le robaron nada, pero el intruso abrió la jaula de la mascota de Lázaro y liberó al canario. La tienda es poco más que un cuartucho en un callejón que conduce a la entrada de artistas del Royalty Theatre.

En ese momento, el Dr. Willing, que trabaja en la oficina del FBI en Nueva York como psiquiatra y como investigador, pensó que su conocimiento de este “crimen” se limitaría a los pocos hechos encontrados en los periódicos. Pero luego, se detiene en el cuartel general de la policía para saludar a su amigo, el inspector jefe adjunto Foyle, y su conversación los lleva a la historia del canario en las noticias de la mañana. Foyle admite que fue algo gracioso cuando recibió el informe de la comisaría esta mañana. Primero pensó que podría ser un truco publicitario. El nuevo espectáculo de Wanda Morley se inaugura en el Royalty en uno o dos días, y la tienda del afilador de cuchillos está justo al lado. Pero su agente de prensa jura que no sabe nada al respecto y no se ha mencionado el nombre de Wanda Morley en relación con el caso. Sin embargo, el Dr. Willing, como la mayoría de los psiquiatras modernos, cree que ningún ser humano puede realizar un acto sin un motivo, consciente o inconsciente.

En cualquier caso, el Dr. Willing consigue una invitación para asistir al estreno de la obra en el Royalty esa misma noche. La obra es Fedora de Victorien Sardou, una obra menor de un dramaturgo que quizás sea más recordado hoy porque otra de sus obras, La Tosca, fue convertida en ópera por Puccini. Fedora fue escrita para Sarah Bernhardt, y se dice que Wanda Morley quiere parecerse a ella en todo lo que hace.

Durante el primer acto, un joven revolucionario herido de muerte es llevado a la casa de su amante Fedora, el personaje principal de la obra. El amante es tratado por un médico y descubierto por un policía, pero muere al final del primer acto. El revolucionario moribundo no tiene líneas y debe permanecer inmóvil todo el tiempo que esté en escena. Los únicos actores que han estado cerca de él son Rodney Tait como el médico, Leonard Martin como el policía y, por supuesto, Wanda Morley, que se despide de él con un beso antes de morir. Pero cuando cae el telón se descubre que el joven está realmente muerto. Para sorpresa de todos, nadie conoce al actor (un figurante) que estaba interpretando ese papel. Según la tradición, la propia Sarah Bernhardt solía invitar a sus amantes a interpretar ese papel. El resultado es un asesinato, cometido frente al público, y con solo tres sospechosos. Los únicos tres actores que se han acercado a la víctima durante el primer acto. Pero parece imposible desentrañar el misterio de su muerte.

A pesar de algunas opiniones en sentido contrario, me encantó leer Cue for Murder. En mi opinión, la trama es bastante ingeniosa y entretenida. Por lo que tengo entendido, fue un gran éxito cuando se publicó originalmente, aunque, para los estándares actuales, la historia puede parecer un poco anticuada. En cualquier caso disfruté leyendo sobre los entresijos de un teatro de Broadway a principios de los 40 y, en este sentido, la historia está bien documentada. Sin duda, McCloy estaba muy familiarizada en ese entorno. En definitiva, es sumamente interesante recuperar gracias a Agora Books otra de las obras de Helen McCloy difícil de encontrar. Como autora, ha sido uno de mis grandes descubrimientos este año. Mi agradecimiento también al Crime Classics Advance Readers Club por proporcionarme una copia digital de este libro a través de NetGalley, a cambio de mi sincera opinión. Si le gusta Helen MCCloy tanto como a mí, no debe perderse Cue for Murder.

Acerca del autor: Helen McCloy (Nueva York, 1904-Woodstock, 1992), pseudónimo de Helen Clarkson, fue una escritora de misterio norteamericana conocida por su serie de novelas protagonizadas por el psiquiatra-detective Basil Willing. De madre escritora y padre editor, McCloy creció leyendo a Sherlock Holmes y en 1950 se convirtió en la primera mujer presidente de la Asociación de Escritores de Misterio de Estados Unidos, organización que le otorgó un premio Edgar por sus críticas literarias. Su debut como escritora, Dance of Death (1938), introdujo ya al doctor Willing, quien protagonizaría otros 12 misterios y algunos relatos cortos, la mayoría de tintes góticos y sobrenaturales. Un reflejo velado en el cristal (1950; Hoja de Lata, 2021) es el octavo caso de la serie y está considerado una obra maestra del género y un clásico del misterio sobrenatural estadounidense. (Fuente: Hoja de Lata)

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) [Un reflejo velado en el cristal, 2021]; 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.

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

My Book Notes: Two-Thirds of a Ghost, 1956 (Dr Basil Willing # 11) by Helen McCloy

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St. Swithin Press, 2012. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 654 KB. Print Length: 256 pages. ASIN: B008D2INTW. ISBN: 978-1-927551-08-0. First published in the US by Random House, 1956 and by Gollancz, 1957 in the UK.

51vrz3l4DyLDescription: Amos Cottle was a valuable property—a first-rate novelist who produced four best sellers in four years. He had to be protected. From himself (he was an ex-alcoholic). And from his wife (she was a gold-digging siren and she spelled trouble). His publisher and his agent thought Amos’s problems were solved when they clawed the beautiful Vera out of his hair and shipped her off to Hollywood. But they were wrong. For there came a night when Vera returned. That was the night Amos had to have a drink. It was too bad he never lived to sober up.

My Take: Publisher Tony Kane and his wife, Philippa, throw a last-minute party at their Connecticut home to celebrate the return of Hollywood actress Vera Vane. Vera is the wife of best-selling author Amos Cottle. Guests include Amos literary agent, Gus Vesey and his wife Meg whose income depends heavily on Amos success; Maurice Lepton, a literary critic who praises Amos books; Emmett Avery, a literary critic who despises them; Dr Basil Willing, an author published by Tony Kane, and his wife Gisela; a pair of devoted readers the Puseys, mother and  son; and Vera Vane who, lured by Amos fame, has returned to claim her share of the pie after having her contract with the film studios terminated.

Amos, a former alcoholic, has managed to stay sober in recent years thanks to the efforts of both his agent and his publisher. However, with the return of his wife Vera, whom he had not divorced despite the time they have lived apart, Kane and Vesey foresee that Amos could relapse. Their worst omens are are fulfilled when Amos shows up at the party with clear signs of being drunk. At one point during the party, while the guests play a parlour game known as Two-Third of a Ghost, Amos falls dead. Amos Cottle was poisoned with cyanide. ‘The alcohol he had taken masked the usual symptoms –heavy breathing and spasmodic movements.’

Although the murder took place in Connecticut, most of the people who attended the party live in New York or have their offices there. For this reason, close cooperation between Connecticut Sate Police and New York City Police is needed, and Dr Basil Willing has been asked to act as a kind of liaison officer between the two police forces. The first problem Dr Willing faces is figuring out whom is going to benefit from Amos death since, in most cases, it seems to involve killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. But the investigation becomes much more complicated when it is discovered that Amos Cottle had never existed before becoming a best-selling author. The biography on the back cover of his books had been fabricated. Who was Amos Cottle really?

The book title, as the reader will soon realise, does not only have to do with the parlour game at the Kanes’ party, but it has more than one meaning. The story is based on very suggestive premises, and  Helen McCloy, she herself an author, a mystery book critic and an editor, has a first hand knowledge on the atmosphere in which the action unfolds. All this are reasons enough for the book to turn out being attractive, if on top of that the story is well-written. Consequently, I can forgive some flaws, on which I don’t want to enter into too much detail. I found inconsistent, in my view, that someone like Amos Cottle would have conducted a television programme and I don’t quite understand the reasons to murder him.  A pity, since otherwise it is a superb story.

I wonder if this is not one of the most personal books by Helen McCloy and if she did not used it to give us her own views

“Damn few authors have experienced personally the things they write about. That’s one difference between a pro and an amateur. An amateur can’t write about something that isn’t direct experience. A real writer can write about anything –that’s his job. No one really cares if he’s technically accurate in every petty detail. The only thing that matters is making real to the average reader who doesn’t know any more about technicalities than the average author. Emotions are what concern a fiction writer. No facts, but the way people respond to facts inside themselves. That takes imagination –something a lot more rare than factual knowledge.”

Two-Thirds of a Ghost has been reviewed, among others, at Only Detect, Clothes in Books, ahsweetmysteryblog, and The Grandest Game in the World.

About the Author: Helen Worrell Clarkson McCloy (1904-1994). Born in New York City, Helen McCloy was educated in Brooklyn, at the Quaker Friends’ school, and later studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1927-1932 she worked for Hearst’s Universal News Service after which she freelanced as an art critic and contributor to various publications, including the London Morning Post. Shortly after her return to the US she published her first novel, Dance of Death, in 1938, featuring her popular series detective-psychologist Basil Willing. The novel Through a Glass Darkly, a puzzle in the supernatural tradition of John Dickson Carr, is the eighth in the Basil Willing series and is generally acknowledged to be her masterpiece. In 1946 McCloy married fellow author Davis Dresser, famed for his Mike Shayne novels. Together they founded Halliday & McCloy literary agency as well as the Torquil Publishing Company. The couple had one daughter, Chloe, and their marriage ended in 1961. 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. A rather prolific author, McCloy 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. In 1987, critic and mystery writer H. R. F. Keating included her Basil Willing title Mister Splitfoot in a list of the 100 best crime and mystery books ever published.

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).

St. Swithin Press 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

Two-Thirds of a Ghost, by Helen McCloy

Descripción: Amos Cottle era un objeto de valor muy valioso: un novelista de primer orden que fabricó cuatro éxitos de ventas en cuatro años. Tenía que estar protegido. De sí mismo (era un exalcohólico). Y de su esposa (era una cazafortunas y auguraba problemas). Su editor y su agente pensaron que los problemas de Amos estaban resueltos cuando le quitaron las garras de la hermosa Vera de encima y la enviaron a Hollywood. Pero estaban equivocados. Porque llegó una noche en la que Vera regresó. Esa fue la noche en que Amos tuvo que tomar una copa. Fue una lástima, nunca vivió para volver a estar sobrio.

Mi opinión: El editor Tony Kane y su esposa, Philippa, organizan con poco tiempo de antelación una fiesta en su casa de Connecticut para celebrar el regreso de la actriz de Hollywood Vera Vane. Vera es la mujer del autor de best-sellers Amos Cottle. Los invitados incluyen al agente literario de Amos, Gus Vesey y su mujer Meg, cuyos ingresos dependen en gran medida del éxito de Amos; Maurice Lepton, un crítico literario que elogia los libros de Amos; Emmett Avery, un crítico literario que los desprecia; El Dr. Basil Willing, un autor publicado por Tony Kane, y su mujer Gisela; un par de devotos lectores los Pusey, madre e hijo; y Vera Vane, quien, atraída por la fama de Amos, ha regresado para reclamar su parte del pastel después de que su contrato con los estudios cinematográficos se rescindiera.

Amos, un exalcohólico, ha logrado mantenerse sobrio en los últimos años gracias al esfuerzo tanto de su agente como de su editor. Sin embargo, con el regreso de su esposa Vera, de quien no se había divorciado a pesar del tiempo que han vivido separados, Kane y Vesey prevén que Amos podría recaer. Sus peores presagios se cumplen cuando Amos se presenta en la fiesta con claros signos de estar borracho. En un momento de la fiesta, mientras los invitados estan jugando un juego de salón conocido como Two-Third of a Ghost, Amos cae muerto. Amos Cottle fue envenenado con cianuro. “El alcohol que había tomado enmascara los síntomas habituales: respiración pesada y movimientos espasmódicos”.

Aunque el asesinato tuvo lugar en Connecticut, la mayoría de las personas que asistieron a la fiesta viven en Nueva York o tienen sus oficinas allí. Por esta razón, se necesita una estrecha cooperación entre la Policía Estatal de Connecticut y la Policía de la Ciudad de Nueva York, y se le ha pedido al Dr. Basil Willing que actúe como una especie de oficial de enlace entre las dos fuerzas policiales. El primer problema al que se enfrenta el Dr. Willing es averiguar quién se beneficiará de la muerte de Amos ya que, en la mayoría de los casos, parece implicar matar a la gallina de los huevos de oro. Pero la investigación se complica mucho más cuando se descubre que Amos Cottle nunca había existido antes de convertirse en un autor de best-sellers. La biografía de la contraportada de sus libros había sido inventada. ¿Quién era realmente Amos Cottle?

El título del libro, como pronto se dará cuenta el lector, no solo tiene que ver con el juego de salón en la fiesta de los Kane, sino que tiene más de un significado. La historia se basa en premisas muy sugerentes, y Helen McCloy, ella misma autora, crítica de libros de misterio y editora, conoce de primera mano el ambiente en el que se desarrolla la acción. Todo esto son razones suficientes para que el libro resulte atractivo, si además la historia está bien escrita. En consecuencia, puedo perdonar algunos defectos en los que no quiero entrar en demasiados detalles. En mi opinión, encontré inconsistente que alguien como Amos Cottle hubiera dirigido un programa de televisión y no entiendo muy bien las razones para asesinarlo. Una lástima, ya que por lo demás es una historia soberbia.

Me pregunto si este no es uno de los libros más personales de Helen McCloy y si ella no lo usó para darnos sus propias opiniones.

“Pocos autores experimentan personalmente aquello sobre lo que escriben. Esa es la diferencia entre un profesional y un aficionado. El aficionado no puede escribir sobre algo sobre lo que no haya tenido una experiencia directa. Un verdadero escritor puede escribir sobre cualquier cosa, en eso consiste su trabajo. A nadie le importa si es técnicamente preciso en cada pequeño detalle. Lo único que importa es hacerlo real para el lector medio que no conoce sobre tecnicismos más que el autor medio. Las emociones son lo que interesa a un escritor de ficción. No hechos, sino la forma en que las personas responden a los hechos en su interior. Eso requiere imaginación, algo mucho más raro que el conocimiento real”.

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 actuando como consultor remunerado del fiscal de distrito de la ciudad de Nueva York. Willing es famoso por decir: “todo criminal deja huellas dactilares psíquicas y no puede usar guantes para ocultarlas”. El Dr. Willing también aparece en 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. Escritora bastante prolífica, McCloy ganó los premios Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine por los cuentos “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. En 1971 contribuyó a crear la sección de la MWA en Nueva Inglaterra, 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, 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. En 1987, el crítico y escritor de misterio HRF Keating incluyó su título de Basil Willing Mr Splitfoot en una lista de los 100 Mejores Libros de Crimen y Misterio.

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 Novelas: 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).

My Book Notes: Mr Splitfoot, 1968 (Dr. Basil Willing #12) by Helen McCloy

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The Murder Room, 2013. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 336 KB. Print Length: 256 pages. ASIN: B00FL3CCE8. ISBN: 978-1-4719-1255-9. First published in the US by Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1968 and in the UK by Victor Gollancz Ltd, London, 1969.

9781471912559Description: To wake the devil, Lucinda summoned the arch fiend with the ancient invocation, and from the secret room where her friend Vanya had agreed to hide came the eerie response. The rapping called up all the terror of the old tales, and the joke was going marvellously.
Until Lucinda realised that Vanya had never arrived at the old house . . .

My Take: Mr Splitfoot, the 12th instalment in the thirteen novels that make up Helen McCloy’s series featuring Dr Basil Willing, is for my taste the best in the series, to put it clearly. Which is quite something as this is a series I’m much enjoying. Following a first chapter, as a kind of introduction, in which two youngsters, Lucinda and Vanya, are scheming, out of sheer boredom, a prank in the style of the Fox sisters. In the second chapter Dr Basil Willing and his wife are heading towards a ski lodge when they get stranded in a snowstorm and their car has a break down. They haven’t the faintest idea of where they are and decide to continue on foot with the misfortune that Gisela twists her ankle. Fortunately they spot the lights of a house in the far distant and direct towards it. There are already seven people in the house, with barely any room for them, but they offer them a couch in the sitting room to pass the night. The house, named Crow’s Flight, belongs to David Crowe who is staying there with his wife Serena even though he has rented it to the Swaynes –Francis, his wife Folly, and Lucinda, Francis’ daughter from a first marriage. The third couple are the Alcotts, Brad and Ginevra. Basil remembers then that Alcott and Blair are Francis Swayne’s publishers. After the usual  introductions, Lucinda, a fifteen year old girl, reminds them there is one empty room at the head of the stairs that has not been in use for over fifty years. To tell the truth, it has never been in need to be used and is supposed to be haunted. According to an ancient legend, everyone who has ever slept in that room has been found dead in the morning.

After dinner, Lucinda performs her trick, in collusion with Vanya, saying: “Do as I do, Mr. Splitfoot!” And she claps her hands three times. And promptly the answer comes: Rap … rap …rap. But just then the telephone rings. It’s Vanya’s mother to tell her Vanya has fever and can’t come out tonight, and Lucinda faints. This cause a change of plans. Mrs Swayne decides to take Lucinda to her room and put Mrs Willings in Lucinda’s room. It’s a single room and, therefore, Dr Willing and Mr Swayne will have to camp out in the living room tonight. At this point, Dr Willing suggests to take the closed room himself leaving the couch for Mr Swayne. Finally the four men decide to draw cards to determine by lot who will spend the night in the haunted room. David Crowe draws the lower card, but despite all precautions taken, Crowe is found dead that night. 

The story, as the author herself estates, is a locked room mystery. Even if the door was left open, it was at all times under surveillance of the three other men who were in the house. It was a room that no one but the dead man could have entered before his death. No one could have gone upstairs to the room where Crowe was, without being seen or heard. The hall door was open so they could hear the bell if it rang and they had the stair in full view al the time. No one could have come down the upper hall to that room without them would have heard something. There is no carpet, only scatter rugs, and the floorboards creak. No one could have approach the house from the outside without leaving tracks in the new-fallen snow. There were none when the police arrive. No one could have scuffled with Crowe in the haunted room without leaving some marks on the dust in the floor. To all intents and purposes, it was a locked room even though the door stood open.

No one better than Curtis Evans to sum up in a few words what I think of this superb novel:

In Mr. Splitfoot, however, Helen McCloy, then sixty-four, produced one of the best of her thirteen mysteries starring psychiatrist sleuth Dr Basil Willing, who had debuted three decades earlier, at the tail end of the Golden Age, in 1938.  The novel makes use of some of the genre’s hoariest tropes –the breakdown of the sleuth’s car in the countryside, the country house party, the snowbound mansion, the Christmastime setting, the haunted mansion, the locked room– and triumphantly succeeds in giving them a fresh gloss.  I first read the novel over two decades ago and upon rereading it this week I found that I enjoyed it every bit as much as I did the first time round.  It’s a late flowering of Golden Age ingenuity to be cherished by lovers of vintage mystery. (The Passing Tramp)

Highly recommended.

Mr Splitfoot has been reviewed, among others, at Pretty Sinister Books, Beneath the Stains of Time, At the Scene of the Crime, ahsweetmysteryblog, Classic Mysteries, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, The Reader is Warned, Dead Yesterday, The Passing Tramp, The Grandest Game in the World, and The Green Capsule

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, who debuted in her first novel Dance of Death (William Morrow & Co., 1938). He appeared in thirteen of McCloy’s novels and several short stories acting as a paid consultant to New York City’s District Attorney. Willing is famous for saying, “every criminal leaves psychic fingerprints, and he can’t wear gloves to hide them.” Dr. Willing also appears in 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. A rather prolific author, McCloy 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. In 1987, critic and mystery writer H. R. F. Keating included her Basil Willing title Mr Splitfoot in a list of the 100 Best Crime and Mystery Books.

Dr Basil Willing Mysteriy Series: 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).

The Orion Publishing House 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

Sr. Splitfoot, de Helen McCloy

Descripción: Para despertar al diablo, Lucinda convoca al archienemigo con la antigua invocación, y desde la habitación secreta donde su amigo Vanya había acordado esconderse llegó la espeluznante respuesta. El golpe despertó todo el terror de los viejos cuentos, y la broma iba de maravilla.
Hasta que Lucinda se dio cuenta de que Vanya nunca había llegado a la vieja casa….

Mi opinión: Sr Splitfoot, la duodécima entrega de las trece novelas que componen la serie de Helen McCloy con el Dr. Basil Willing, es para mi gusto la mejor de la serie, para decirlo claramente. Lo cual es bastante, ya que esta es una serie que estoy disfrutando mucho. Tras un primer capítulo, a modo de introducción, en el que dos jóvenes, Lucinda y Vanya, están maquinando, por puro aburrimiento, una broma al estilo de las hermanas Fox. En el segundo capítulo, el Dr. Basil Willing y su esposa se dirigen hacia una estación de esquí cuando quedan varados en una tormenta de nieve y su auto tiene una avería. No tienen la menor idea de dónde están y deciden seguir a pie con la desgracia de que Gisela se tuerce el tobillo. Afortunadamente, ven las luces de una casa a lo lejos y se dirigen hacia ella. Ya hay siete personas en la casa, sin apenas espacio para ellos, pero les ofrecen un sofá en el salón para pasar la noche. La casa, llamada Crow’s Flight, pertenece a David Crowe, quien se aloja allí con su esposa Serena a pesar de que se la ha alquilado a los Swayne: Francis, su esposa Folly y Lucinda, la hija de Francis de un primer matrimonio. La tercera pareja son los Alcott, Brad y Ginevra. Basil recuerda entonces que Alcott y Blair son los editores de Francis Swayne. Después de las habituales presentaciones, Lucinda, una joven de quince años, les recuerda que hay una habitación vacía en la parte superior de las escaleras que no se ha utilizado durante más de cincuenta años. A decir verdad, nunca ha sido necesario usarla y se supone que está embrujada. Según una antigua leyenda, todos los que alguna vez durmieron en esa habitación fueron encontrados muertos por la mañana.

Después de la cena, Lucinda realiza su truco, en connivencia con Vanya, diciendo: “¡Haga lo que yo hago, Sr. Splitfoot!” Y aplaude tres veces. Y pronto llega la respuesta: Rap … rap … rap. Pero en ese momento suena el teléfono. Es la madre de Vanya para decirle que Vanya tiene fiebre y no puede salir esta noche, y Lucinda se desmaya. Esto provoca un cambio de planes. La Sra. Swayne decide llevar a Lucinda a su habitación y poner a la Sra. Willings en la habitación de Lucinda. Es una habitación individual y, por lo tanto, el Dr. Willing y el Sr. Swayne tendrán que acampar en la sala de estar esta noche. En este punto, el Dr. Willing sugiere ocupar la habitación cerrada él mismo dejando el sofá para el Sr. Swayne. Finalmente los cuatro hombres deciden echar cartas para determinar por sorteo quién pasará la noche en la habitación encantada. David Crowe saca la carta más baja, pero a pesar de todas las precauciones tomadas, Crowe es encontrado muerto esa noche.

La historia, como dice la propia autora, es un misterio de habitación cerrada. Aunque la puerta se dejó abierta, estuvo en todo momento bajo la vigilancia de los otros tres hombres que se encontraban en la casa. Era una habitación a la que nadie más que el muerto podía haber entrado antes de su muerte. Nadie podría haber subido a la habitación donde estaba Crowe sin ser visto ni oído. La puerta del pasillo estaba abierta para que pudieran escuchar la campana si sonaba y tenían la escalera a la vista todo el tiempo. Nadie podría haber entrado por el pasillo superior a esa habitación sin que ellos hubieran escuchado algo. No hay moqueta, solo pequeñas alfombras dispersas, y la tarima del piso cruje. Nadie podría haberse acercado a la casa desde el exterior sin dejar huellas en la nieve recién caída. No había ninguna huella cuando llegó la policía. Nadie podría haber atacado a Crowe en la habitación encantada sin dejar marca alguna en el polvo del suelo. A todos los efectos, era una habitación cerrada a pesar de que la puerta se encontraba abierta.

Nadie mejor que Curtis Evans para resumir en pocas palabras lo que pienso de esta magnífica novela:

En Sr. Splitfoot, sin embargo, Helen McCloy, entonces de sesenta y cuatro años, presenta uno de los mejores de sus trece misterios protagonizado por el detective psiquiatra Dr. Basil Willing, que había debutado tres décadas antes, al final de la Edad de Oro, en 1938. La novela hace uso de algunos de los temas recurrentes más antiguos del género –la avería del coche del detective en medio del campo, la fiesta en la casa rural, el caserón cubierto de nieve, el entorno navideño, la mansión encantada, la habitación cerrada– y logra con éxito darles un nuevo brillo. Leí la novela por primera vez hace más de dos décadas y, al releerla esta semana, descubrí que la disfruté tanto como la primera vez. Es un floreción tardía del ingenio de la Edad de Oro para ser apreciada por los aficionados a los misterios vintage. (The Passing Tramp)

Muy recomendable.

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 actuando como consultor remunerado del fiscal de distrito de la ciudad de Nueva York. Willing es famoso por decir: “todo criminal deja huellas dactilares psíquicas y no puede usar guantes para ocultarlas”. El Dr. Willing también aparece en 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. Escritora bastante prolífica, McCloy ganó los premios Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine por los cuentos “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. En 1971 contribuyó a crear la sección de la MWA en Nueva Inglaterra, 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, 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. En 1987, el crítico y escritor de misterio HRF Keating incluyó su título de Basil Willing Mr Splitfoot en una lista de los 100 Mejores Libros de Crimen y Misterio.

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 Novelas: 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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