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