Nobody - including the theater critic reviewing the performance - could have expected what happened during the opening night performance. Here's what that reviewer wrote:
The sensational discovery of a murdered man on the stage of the Royalty Theatre last night interrupted Sam Milhau's production of Fedora starring Wanda Morley, at the end of the first act. If such an incredible event had occurred in the action of the play, the writer would have condemned it unhesitatingly as a stale theatrical contrivance - a piece of pure ham, mechanical and impossible...Suffice it to say that the impossible did happen last night at the Royalty."
The murder actually was committed on stage, in front of the opening night audience - yet nobody saw what happened. Nobody admitted to having any idea of the dead man's identity, or where he came from. Psychiatrist Basil Willing had very few clues to help him find the truth in Helen McCloy's 1942 classic, Cue for Murder. It's the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the complete review by clicking here.
I find myself becoming addicted to the first-rate mysteries written by the American author, Helen McCloy. She manages to create a tense atmosphere in her books, and her plots are quite complex, but she also is quite willing to play mind games with her readers. She opens Cue for Murder - her very first sentence, in fact - by saying, "“The murder mystery at the Royalty Theatre was solved through the agency of a house fly and a canary.” Be advised that she means that literally - and it will prove to be the conclusive evidence needed by Dr. Willing.
Cue for Murder works on many different levels. It takes readers backstage (and on stage) at the chaotic opening night of a major Broadway show. The action is set at the time of America’s entrance into World War Two, and there are preparations being made to black out New York City if enemy bombers attack. Dr. Willing, now working with the wartime FBI as both psychiatrist and investigator, is a detective in the mold of R. Austin Freeman’s Dr. Thorndyke – he’s a man of science, and brings a scientist’s precision to his investigations. The plot is very fair about providing clues to the mystery here – in fact, I was able to anticipate some of the book’s twists. But that’s not a complaint – not at all. Helen McCloy wrote with both style and wit, and I think readers will very much enjoy Cue for Murder. At the moment, it's available as an e-book from Orion/Murder Room - I'm not sure how much longer Orion will be supporting the Murder Room label, however, so if you want it, now's the time to get it!