Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Dead Can Tell: Helen Reilly

This is the second book that I have read by Helen Reilly, a mystery author who wrote from 1930 through the early 1960's. I found this as a reasonably priced e-book right before my trip to Alabama, and I was glad I had it to read on the airplane, when my paperback mystery was placed in a bag that I could not get to.

Most of the mysteries by Helen Reilly feature Inspector McKee, also referred to as The Scotsman. Per Michael Grost (at this page), her mysteries "were among the first American novels to stress police procedure." Some of her later books ran more to romantic suspense, though they still included detecting by Inspector McKee.

In September of this year, I read Lament for the Bride, and my review is here. I had mixed feelings about that book. I also profiled Helen Reilly in this post.


The Dead Can Tell is similar to Lament for a Bride in that a lot of the focus is on a young woman and her romantic entanglements. She becomes involved in a crime which goes unsolved for quite a long time. The plot follows her relationship problems and Inspector McKee's investigation. I was glad to see that this one featured McKee and his coworker, Todhunter, more than the previous book.

Overall, I was not impressed with this book. Too much emphasis on the romance for me. There were clues to the culprit and I was surprised to discover who it was. My next foray into the mysteries of Helen Reilly will be a book that emphasizes the police and detection more, I hope.

However, the descriptive passages in some parts of the book were superb. I don't usually pay much attention to that aspect, but they really stood out here.

Some samples:
November sunlight streamed gaudily through the wide windows. It couldn't dissipate the fog banks of mounting bewilderment and the ever-increasing dread folding themselves around her, drawing closer in.

His eyes rested moodily on the big black Cadillac beyond the rickety white gateposts waiting to take him back to New York. Poison ivy wreathed a flaming mantle of scarlet in and out of the fence pickets and spread itself over the tawny grass below. Wind whipped the leaves. The weather had turned cold.
One of my favorite things about Helen Reilly is that she has a lot of books in lovely Dell mapback editions. I have a few of those, but I don't have this one.You can see some examples at my other posts on Helen Reilly and her mysteries.

It is getting close to the end of the year and I am trying to finish up some challenges. This book gets me close to completing the Vintage Mystery Challenge.

1 comment:

  1. I've not heard of this writer. You are giving me so many ideas for classic crime I need to start making a list! I might have a go at a vintage challenge next year to get me reading some.

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