I'm an admirer of the American writer Helen McCloy. She wrote engaging prose and was a skilled plotsmith. She also took care to vary her approach, so that even her series novels, featuring the psychiatrist Basil Willing, are pleasingly different. A case in point is my Forgotten Book for today, Who's Calling? It was first published in 1942, and I was pleased to pick up a Dell mapback edition in the bookroom at Bouchercon in New Orleans last September.
Frieda, a pretty but selfish young woman, is due to meet her boyfriend's family and friends when she receives a mysterious anonymous phone call, warning her off. Undaunted, Frieda goes to Willow Spring to meet the clan. Before long, someone is murdered. But it isn't Fieda. What's more, the murder method was that splendidly time-honoured method- yes, one of my favourites, poisoned chocolates!
Basil Willing is called in to assist the investigation, and his professional expertise is crucial in unravelling the mystery. In some ways, it seems to me that this book anticipates one that is rather better known, Beast in View by Margaret Millar, which appeared more than a decade later. I'd be interested to know if anyone else sees the parallels that seem to me to be quite striking (though I should add that Millar makes very good and original use of the central idea).
This is a highly readable and cleverly constructed mystery. Even though I figured out the identity of the culprit, I didn't pick up all the clues. There was one aspect of the story, concerning Frieda's reaction to the phone call, which I thought wasn't quite "fair play", but overall this is a crime novel that I can definitely recommend. McCloy was an excellent writer whose work deserves to be celebrated.