THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


HELEN McCLOY The One That Got Away

  HELEN McCLOY – The One That Got Away. William Morrow, hardcover, 1945. Hardcover reprint: Detective Book Club, 3-in-1 edition, January 1946. Magazine appearance: Detective Novel Magazine, January 1947. Reprint paperback: Dell #355, mapback edition; no date stated [1949].

   There may or may not have been an escape by a German prisoner of war in Dalriada, Scotland. Lieutenant Peter Dunbar, a psychiatrist who is interested in youth delinquency, is assigned by his commanding officer, Basil Willing — also a psychiatrist and a continuing character in McCloy’s novels — to find out if there was such an escape and where the German soldier might be hiding.

   As soon as Dunbar arrives in the area, however, he becomes involved with the adopted son of a famous, albeit not much read, author and the author’s tripe-writing but best-selling wife. The boy keeps trying to run away from home for reasons unknown. In the most recent episode, the boy, in full sight of a watcher, vanishes on the moor.

HELEN McCLOY The One That Got Away

   He also pulls the same trick later, more or less. Dunbar, who was supposed to have been watching him, is busy ogling a young lady.

   Dunbar’s talents as a psychiatrist ought to be enhanced by his ability to read eyes. He knows when they have a twinkle in them, are wary and calculating, are full of tragedy. Since there are only two men in the area who could be the German escapee, if there is one, Dunbar’s ability to read the messages in eyes ought to make his task easy.

   It doesn’t. After two deaths, one in a locked-room-type situation, Basil Willing has to step in and clear up the case. A good plot, some interesting characters, and enough misdirection to confuse both Dunbar and me.

   Perhaps if he hadn’t fallen in love at first sight, he might have been able to do better. I didn’t have that excuse.

From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 9, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1987.