The Michael Gray Mysteries

 
9781893887633: The Michael Gray Mysteries

A massive omnibus of four novels from the late 1950s all featuring the amateur sleuthing of San Francisco psychoanalyst Michael Gray: Murder of Eleanor Pope Murder of Ann Avery Murder of a Mistress Murder of a Wife

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Review:

These novels were profoundly influenced by "the new genre of the psychoanalytical tale," as Max Lerner calls "The Jet-Propelled Couch" and other cases in Robert Lindner's THE FIFTY-MINUTE HOUR tales in which the dramatic structure of psychoanalysis, with its attendant surprise-revelations, IS the story. The first Michael Gray novel was possibly too psychoanalytical yet still fascinating. The second reacted too far in the direction of stressing physical story-action. But the third and particularly the fourth achieved a beautiful balance of intellect, emotion, and action. It took Kuttner most of his creative life to find out what he wanted to do with the mystery form. When he found it, he created a new kind of detective novel, and an unusually absorbing and rewarding one. --Anthony Boucher, author of ROCKET TO THE MORGUE --(Henry Kuttner: A Memorial Symposium, Edited by Karen Anderson)

Henry Kuttner is best known as a science-fiction writer, both on his own and in collaboration with his wife, C. L. Moore; but Kuttner published several mysteries, including a series of books about Michael Gray, a psychoanalyst whose patients often found themselves involved in murder. In MURDER OF A MISTRESS, Eileen Herrick confesses to the stabbing of her father's mistress. Gray, who has been counseling Eileen, does not believe her guilt, but he can see motives for her confession that the police cannot. Three others confess to the same murder, but this is not uncommon. One of the others, however, is murdered, and Gray discovers that the dead woman's sister was also killed some months before. Then there is an attempt on Gray's life. Obviously there is some connection among these events, but the police are not eager to find it, being certain of Eileen's guilt. Gray's investigation into the crime, based much more on psychology than on police methods, proves quite interesting, and the buried motives he uncovers lead him eventually to the real killer. By far the most interesting aspect of the Michael Gray books is the insight that Gray, as an analyst, has into the various characters he encounters. The use of psychology, while never heavy-handed, pervades the books, unusual for their time in that they are much more closely related to the "polite" mystery than to the hard-boiled stories so popular in the 1950s. The plotting is intricate, and the major flaw is Kuttner's failure to develop the character of Gray, who remains pretty much a cipher-unlike the other characters in the story, including one who is never even seen. --Bill Crider, author of DEATH BY ACCIDENT (A Dan Rhodes Mystery) --(1001 Midnights: The Aficionado's Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction)

Working tirelessly as he did, under several pseudonyms, for paperback publishers, Henry Kuttner was not able to give the full measure of his talent. He died, aged forty-four, in 1958 and his best work was published posthumously that same year. It is the one the reader holds in his hand. The year before, Kuttner had published MURDER OF A MISTRESS, in which the same psychoanalyst Michael Gray is the investigator. Earlier, as Lewis Padgett, Will Garth, and others, our author's output was undistinguished in kind, though well above average in the quality of its prose. The new departure in his last years was to do something well thought out with "psychology." At that word seasoned readers of crime fiction rightly grow apprehensive; for a number of times since E. C. Bentley established the form and contents of the modern murder tale, someone has come forth with a manifesto proclaiming that "now it must turn psychological." And without manifestoes innumerable writers have bypassed their difficulties in plot-unwinding by invoking their detective's "psychological insight." It is all bosh, or-to put it more politely-it is solution by guesswork or fiat, which leaves the reader dissatisfied or contemptuous. It remained for somebody to secure a grasp on psychological methods and invent a situation in which they could be applied with plausibility and force. This is Henry Kuttner's achievement. It necessarily entailed the creation of at least two characters with minds, the one to explore the other; and this is what we find in MURDER OF A WIFE. The situation is complex, and so is the relation of Dr. Gray to his patient and to the police. The doctor's crowning merit is that in spite of being a psychologist he has a proper respect for physical evidence. --Jacques Barzun & Wendell H. Taylor --MURDER OF A WIFE (Garland edition)

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