The Deadly Truth by Helen McCloy

The Deadly Truth

The Deadly Truth by Helen McCloy was originally published in 1941 but was re-printed by Agora Books last month. It’s a Dr Basil Willing mystery, he’s a psychiatrist who works in New York. Unusually for him he’s spending the summer on Long Island, renting a cottage on an estate which belongs to Claudia Bethune. She’s a wealthy socialite, three times married and she loves throwing parties. It seems that she gets most of her joy from being cruel and nasty to her guests though.

Dr Roger Slater is a research scientist who is infatuated with Claudia, so when she visits him in his laboratory he can’t stop himself from boasting about a new truth serum that he has developed. But when Claudia leaves the lab he realises that she has stolen a small aluminium tube of the serum. He’s furious, he’ll get into a lot of trouble from his employers if they find out. It looks like Claudia intends to have fun with her guests by doctoring their drinks with the serum.

Things don’t go quite the way Claudia plans them to, she’s in for a very big surprise. Dr Basil Willing gets involved and his investigation uncovers blackmail and jewellery theft, it seems that just about everyone had something to hide.

I really enjoyed this one, not only for the mystery and investigation but I appreciated the author’s descriptive abilities. I like to know where I am when I’m taken into a room by an author and I think you can see from the description below that Helen McCloy was interested in painting the scene for the reader.

The curtains were satin brocade of buttercup yellow. The walls were washed a pale primrose, the ceiling a sour cream colour, and two mantelpieces of tawny ochre marble faced each other at opposite ends of the room. The parquet was blond, the woodwork ivory white, and the chairs were covered with petit point in the same faded buff and blue as the Chinese rug. There was a Chinese cabinet of brilliant black lacquer with a procession of mandarins eternally wending their diagonal way across its double doors picked out in tarnished gilt.

She has one character saying:
If I may be permitted to paraphrase Aaron Burr: Truth is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained.

The politicians of the moment seem to have adhered to that one well!

I was sent a digital copy of this book by Agora Books via NetGalley. Thank you.

6 thoughts on “The Deadly Truth by Helen McCloy

  1. I love Helen McCloy’s books – I enjoy the psychological aspect, as well as the descriptive writing you mention. My favourite so far is the first Basil Willing mystery, Dance of Death.

  2. I keep hearing about Helen McCloy’s books and I am going to have to look for one to try. Dance with Death is fairly expensive on ABEbooks.com, I will try something else by her first. This one is pretty expensive too.

    • tracybham,
      If you aren’t already signed up as a reviewer on NetGalley you should do so, you might still be able to request this one for review. It has just been reprinted.

      • I might consider that. I had forgotten that even reprint editions can show up on Netgalley. I probably am still signed up, I just did not like to committing to reviewing a book … and having to read it on the kindle.

        • tracybham,

          I put off for years signing up for Netgalley as I don’t like feeling like I’m on a reading treadmill, but so far it is working okay, I’m just not asking for many to review. I also prefer actual books.

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