Pulp Fiction Book Cover Art of the Day: ‘The Man in the Moonlight’ by Helen McCloy


From Pretty Sinister BooksHelen McCloy would have made a great writer of TV crime show scripts these days. While readingThe Man in the Moonlight (1940), her sophomore detective novel featuring Dr. Basil Willing, I was struck by the abundance of arcane bits of scientific knowledge that made up the clues and evidence in her usual fascinating plot. She introduces biochemistry, anatomy, abnormal psychology, symbology, and even the construction of heating and air conditioning units in to her multi-layered plot. The story of the murder at Yorkville University could easily have been an episode onHouse or Elementary or any of the dozen of shows in which the plot hinges on little known medical, psychological and historical facts.

Want a sampling? Let’s go!

1. Suicide by a gun in the mouth is the most common method of self-destruction among German and Austrian soldiers.

2. There is an abnormal condition of the thymus gland that can result in giving people a youthful appearance not consistent with chronological age.

3. A certain type of lesion in the septum is indicative of chromic acid poisoning.

4. There is a discussion of HVAC construction and its flaws and how it relates to acoustical anomalies that allow the murderer to eavesdrop on private conversations in one room while being hidden in an adjacent room below.

That just scratches the surface. My notes include three other points which unfortunately would reveal a few well deserved surprises. As I’ve said before McCloy was way ahead of the rest of her mystery writing colleagues in tackling what are now almost routine in plot devices. She was, in my opinion, the first of the truly modern detective novel writers….Read the rest…

Pretty Sinister Books

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