Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mourned on Sunday: Helen Reilly

Mourned on Sunday is the ninth book in the Inspector McKee series by Helen Reilly and the third book by Reilly that I have read. The first one, Lament for the Bride, also featured Inspector McKee of the Manhattan Homicide Squad. In my review, I described that book as a "hybrid, part romantic suspense, part police procedural." That description fits this book as well. The second one was The Dead Can Tell; I found that book too focused on romance and not enough detection. However in all the books I have read, I have enjoyed the depiction of Inspector McKee.



In Mourned on Sunday, Nora Dalrymple has returned to the small town of Silverlock after her husband's death. She hopes to reunite with Roger Thew, a man she had fallen in love with while stil married to her much older husband. However, it turns out that he has married another woman from Silverlock, whose mother has inherited a lot of money. Through a series of strange events, Nora is lured away from her house late at night, and is later accused of the hit-and-run accident which occurred at that time.

The plot is very complex. The injured woman, Sylvia Thew, wife of Roger, remains in very bad condition and cannot testify about her attacker. Inspector McKee shows up in Silverlock and investigates the death of Sylvia's mother, who had fallen from a balcony of her hotel room in his precinct in Manhattan just a few weeks earlier. The reader, being privy to Nora's whereabouts during the attack on Sylvia, knows that she cannot be guilty of that crime. Reilly provides us with many possible suspects from Sylvia's circle of friends and acquaintances with a variety of possible motives. Roger behaves suspiciously and erratically, but no one can prove he has a connection to either crime. In the eyes of the local police, Nora is the most likely suspect for the hit-and-run attack on Sylvia, and there is a witness who saw her car nearby. McKee, however, is almost immediately convinced that someone is trying to frame her.

Mourned on Sunday has elements of the "damsel in distress" story and also bears some resemblance to the "had I but known" sub-genre, but doesn't fit neatly in either. The reader sees most of the story from the point of view of either Nora Dalrymple or Inspector McKee. Nora is a strong woman, capable of taking care of herself, but keeps her own counsel about some facts that could help clear her. McKee stays around in Silverlock with a team of his detectives, working alternately on the suspicious death of Sylvia's mother and the case of the hit-and-run accident.

I enjoyed reading this book, more than any of the other Reilly books I had read previously. I found the ending to be rather outrageous, but there were many clues I missed. I have a few more Inspector McKee books to sample and then I will seek out some others that get the best reviews.


I read this book for the Crimes of the Century meme at Past Offences. The year for this month is 1941. This book did seem to reflect the times, although I remember no mention of the politics at that time. It depicted both big city and small town New York. The focus seemed mostly to be on fairly well-to-do families, although they often complained about having fallen on hard times. Some of them had formerly been relatively poor and then inherited money.

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Publisher:  Dell, 1944. Orig. pub. 1941.
Length:     240 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Inspector McKee, #9
Setting:     New York
Genre:      Police procedural
Source:     I purchased this book.

24 comments:

  1. Sounds great - I have only read a non-series book of hers I think - thanks Tracy.

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    1. I enjoyed it, Sergio. The tone (and the setting) reminded me of some of Rex Stout's non-series books.

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  2. I have the hardcover copy of this book. On the back cover there is an interesting "interview" of Inspector McKee by Helen Reilly.
    The McKee books are an example of a series which kept the same protagonist but which varied the type of mystery depending on what was popular at the time. So Mrs. Reilly's first period during the 1930s was police procedurals, her second period during the 1940s was more in the nature of domestic suspense, and her third period during the 1950s tended to emphasize psychological elements (Freud was big in the 1950s). The type of mystery you get from her depends on when she wrote it.
    Another example of this sort of thing is the Ellery Queen books.
    I would beware Dell mapbooks. In my experience they are often abridged, sometimes severely abridged, without notice to the reader.

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    1. I saw a photo of the dust jacket of the hardback, and it is a gorgeous cover. Thanks for all that information about the series and the different types of writing.

      I had wondered about the mapback because I had read that before, that they had been abridged sometimes. (Maybe it was even you that warned me before?) In this case I had no other alternative. I could find no versions other than the mapback and the hardback and I could not afford the hardback.

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  3. Sounds interesting, Tracy. I don't usually go for the 'damsel in distress' type novel, but sometimes they do work well.

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    1. I don't really care for damsel in distress type books either, Margot, no matter when they were written. This one wasn't exactly that type but I thought I ought to mention that element.

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  4. Glad you enjoyed it Tracy, but not one I'll be seeking out I'm afraid. (A good thing!)

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    1. Not one I would recommend for you, Col. It was fun for me.

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  5. Outrageous ending, eh? Hmmmmm. Dunno, Tracy. I just read Anon's caveat, too, about the Dell abridgemtns... Does it sound as if I'm trying to talk myself out of this one? Hmmm... I did enjoy your review, tho. That I did.

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    1. Thank you, Mathew. Each of the three books I have read so far has been entertaining enough, but I will be trying more from different decades by this author. I do have the first Inspector McKee book, Murder in the Mews (1931), and will probably try that in the next few months.

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    2. I have a copy of The Diamond Feather (1930), and that is a McKee book, so it is probably the first. For some reason, however, she tended to ignore this book.

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    3. Now that you mention that, I think I had read that Murder in the Mews was not the first somewhere else. Oh well, The Diamond Feather is out of my price range at this point. Did you like the book?

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    4. I haven't read it yet! On the other hand, I never read a bad book by her.

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    5. I note that ABE Books has a decent copy of The Diamond Feather for sale for $25; this is a good deal cheaper than the $95 they want at Amazon.com.

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    6. I think you have convinced me. That is a decent price for what I get.

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  6. Tracy, I'm beginning to develop a liking for mysteries set in small towns. I also find the prospect of an inspector from a city homicide squad investigating a case in that town rather appealing.

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    1. Prashant, of the three books by Helen Reilly that I have read, they are all a bit different from other books of the same time period (that I have read), but enjoyable and with great settings.

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  7. I don't think I have read anything by her - one to investigate when the TBR pile gets smaller.

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    1. I discovered Reilly a while back because she was a early writer of police procedurals. They are not really like the standard police procedural, and the three I have read either have a bit of "damsel in distress" or a romantic story, but I have enjoyed them.

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  8. I haven't read her yet but own two books by her. Looking forward to trying her work.

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    1. And I look forward to hearing what you think of her books, Keishon.

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  9. I have most of the McKee mysteries. While they're similar with the romance/mystery/police details (which I love about them) they're just different enough to make it non-tiresome. And I never figure out who did it. And even after I've read it and know the culprit I'll still read again and again to catch all the little things I've that I might not have caught on before.

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    1. I only have 8 if the McKee mysteries, and have only read three of those. I am looking forward to finding more of them.

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  10. I have most of the McKee mysteries. While they're similar with the romance/mystery/police details (which I love about them) they're just different enough to make it non-tiresome. And I never figure out who did it. And even after I've read it and know the culprit I'll still read again and again to catch all the little things I've that I might not have caught on before.

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