It’s been a while since I looked at The Quintessence of Queen #1 – an anthology of “best prize stories” from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It was originally published alongside these entries as part of a larger collection, but my Avon editions find the compilation split in two. We get some reasonably big names in part two – Nicolas Blake, Helen McCloy, and John Dickson Carr, plus entries by less renowned authors. Similar to part one, you get a wide range of styles, although not too many of the stories really stand out. Two of them do though. Both Carr and Jorge Luis Borges provide excellent entries well worth tracking down.
My first encounter with Helen McCloy was through the highly touted Through a Glass, Darkly. The story may be most well known for making position #12 in Ed Hoch’s 1981 collaborative list of top impossible crime novels. I personally didn’t see what justified that ranking, as I can think of 12 novels by John Dickson Carr alone that I’d rank ahead of it. I’ll concede that if you’re looking to create a list diverse in both author and types of impossibility, the novel is worth noting.
For my second McCloy, I decided to jump to another of her better regarded novels – Cue for Murder. I spent a long time holding out for the Dell map back edition of this book, but finally succumbed to a well priced 1965 copy by Bantam Books.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face
I first became aware of this title via Ed Hoch’s 1981 compilation of top impossible crime novels. Sharing a spot alongside works like The Judas Window, Rim of the Pit, and Death From a Top Hat seems to speak volumes for a book. Of course, that can be quite a reputation to live up to as well.
Through a Glass, Darkly is my first experience with Helen McCloy, although she’s on my radar for other much lauded titles such as A Cue for Murder and Mr Splitfoot. This is the eight book with her series character Dr Basil Willing – a psychiatrist, not a detective. Many reviewers consider it to be her masterpiece, although I’ve read a number of other reviews that consider several of her other works to be superior.