RICHARD NEELY – A Madness of the Heart. Crowell-Collier, hardcover, 1976; Signet, pb, 1977.

   Richard Neely specializes in the novel in which nothing is what it seems. This book is no exception. It tells of Harry Falcon, who saves a girl from rape only to return to his home and find his own wife (just released from a sanitarium) raped and beaten.

   As a rapist begins to terrorize the city, Harry becomes obsessed with finding him and extracting vengeance. In the course of things he meets his childhood sweetheart, and their romance is rekindled; but as he recalls their past love, we learn some strange things about Harry Falcon.

   Everything falls into place in the end, and the reader begins to see how cleverly Neely has planted little hints all along. Events and phrases take on new meanings as the truth is revealed.

   This is a suspense story which carries you right along. The shocking ending might not be as great a surprise to readers of certain detective novelists as it will be to others, but it’s a strong one nevertheless.

– From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 3, No. 3, May-June 1979.


[EDITORIAL COMMENT.]   In my opinion, Richard Neely’s books were like no one else’s. Noirish and dark and nothing in them is ever exactly what it seems to be. I’ve found a short piece about him on one of Ed Gorman’s former blogs. You can go here to read the whole article, but I don’t think he’ll mind if I include a short excerpt here, one in which he’s discussing The Plastic Nightmare, another of Neely’s works:

    “Neely loved tricks as much as Woolrich did and Plastic is a field of land mines. He even manages to spin some fresh variations on the amnesia theme. It’s as noir as noir can be but mysteriously I’ve never seen Neely referred to on any noir list. My theory is that his books, for the most part, were presented in such tony packages, they were bypassed by mystery fans.”