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The Pleasant Assassin and Other Cases of Dr. Basil Willing (Lost Classics (Hardcover)) Hardcover – September, 2003

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
Book 14 of 14 in the Dr. Basil Willing Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Detective fiction is the literature of ingenuity, and no one proves that more than cunningly clever mystery writer Helen McCloy. -- Bill Ruehlmann, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, November 30, 2003

One of the greatest American classicists, with a devotion to fair play comparable to Christie, Queen, and Carr. [Four Stars] -- Jon L. Breen, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 2004

Perhaps the first and certainly the best psychiatrist-detective -- Marvin Lachman, Deadly Pleasures, Winter 2004

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 1933, 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. In 1950 Helen McCloy became the first woman president of the Mystery Writers of America and in 1953 she was awarded an Edgar by the same organisation for her criticism. 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Lost Classics (Hardcover)
  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Crippen & Landru; First Edition edition (September 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193200906X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932009064
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,605,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark McGlone on June 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Two of these stories, "The Singing Diamonds," and "Through a Glass, Darkly," are mystery classics (the second of these was expanded into a novel of the same name). Not coincidentally these are the two longest stories by far. Unfortunately, the rest are pretty weak.

The problem is that the short length of these stories is too confining for McCloy. Red herrings are too few, and characters are often one dimensional. McCloy's plots, which are usually excellent, aren't fully fleshed out. In addition, these stories suffer from that too-common malady of mystery stories--"unmotivated spontaneous confession syndrome." When confronted with the weak speculative evidence against them, the culprits confess immediately, apparently just to get the story over with.

I had to remind myself that these stories were written by Helen McCloy--an outstanding mystery novelist, a graceful stylist and skilled plotter who wrote convincingly about intelligent people. She is under-appreciated today. To get a true taste of her talent, look for her novels. I especially love her wartime suspensers, such as "Panic" and "Do Not Disturb." Also I'd suggest "Goblin Market," and "Two-Thirds of a Ghost."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At last Helen McCloy's novels and short stories are back in print! She is a wonderful writer who doesn't cheat; she gives the reader all the clues needed to solve the mystery. Her clever detective, Dr. Basil Willing, usually puts the clues together in ways that wouldn't occur to most of us. McCloy often includes a delicious little frisson of the the supernatural in her stories, something to make you wonder "what if?" Her characters are well drawn, in few strokes, and the resolutions have that certain inevitability of the best detective stories. Well worth your reading time.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to agree with Mark McGlone here, that the plotting of some of the stories is pretty weak! But on the other hand I think McCloy's got a stronger batting average than he does, for besides "Through a Glass, Darkly" and "The Singing Diamonds," I'm quite fond of "Murder Stops the Music" as well. What he sees as a flaw I see as a plus--the short story form constricted McCloy into pouring all the elements of a full-length novel into a mere 20 pages, resulting in a series of tales in which page after page swims with action and genuine surprise. For I find some of McCloy's novels intolerably padded, and here you get all the twists without having to sit through all the interruptions and local color.

"Murder Stops the Music," from 1957, is set at a beachside summer resort rather like the ones Patrick Quentin/Q. Patrick used to feature in his 30s and 40s novels. In fact you might almost believe that this story had been written by Patrick Quentin for it has all of his best qualities. It is, simply, bizarre as all get out, and the central incident, of a muddy boxer accompanying a lovely young lady on a charity call to a retired concert pianist in retirement, is sufficiently mysterious to fuel a whole regatta of speculation. The dog tracks mud over every one of Gertrude Ehrenthal's lovely furnishings, even the pearl-gray satin fittings of her window seat, and politely she says nothing, believing the beast came with her guest, the enchanting ingenue Sybilla Swayne, who in turn thinks the dog is her hostess's. What a pickle and yet on this kooky episode turns the whole complicated plot of jewel theft and public murder. Basil Willing bases a complex chain of reasoning on one suspect's use of the verb "to ignore." It's not his finest hour but, does Basil ever really get one?
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Format: Paperback
At last Helen mccloy will receive the attention she deserves. In this book (another in the great LOST CLASSICS SERIES BY CRIPPEN&LANDRU)you will unravel mysteries in the great golden age tradition, and perhaps will lead you to try the novels of Dr. Basil Willings. A great read.
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