The Horizontal Man Paperback – 1 Sep 1949
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The young student, Molly Morrison, confesses to the murder of an English professor at Hollymount College, but Kate Innes doubts her guilt and decides to investigate.
Top Customer Reviews
The author provides us with a steady stream of suspects before the real detection is undertaken by a local hack journalist and his new campus girlfriend Kate Innes. Kate is quite a spunky gal 'as hard-boiled as a City editor'. She phlegmatically accepts her beau describing her as 'chubby' and his disdain of her grubby dungarees.
The cast list are a wacky bunch ranging from a 'colourless' junior, a lecturer with 'broad possessive buttocks' and a devoted acolyte who 'would black the boots' of the victim.
This would be a very mundane offering if it were not for the 'twist' at the end. The twist is good and the book is reasonably short; a fair trade-off.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
REVIEW: Certainly an easy book to read, with some well-thought out characters, the story zips along from the murder on page 2. Back when this was written the twist was probably more of a surprise, so I felt a little let down at the very end. Plus I thought a few threads begun in the last chapters were left hanging. Not a masterpiece, but still enjoyable.
The novel is set in an Ivy League women's college in the 1940s. The plot revolves around the brutal murder of a young professor of English, Kevin Boyle who had been attractive to many women. The novel presents a small group of characters and suspects, including Molly Morrisson, a young, impressionable student, two colleagues of Boyle, Marks, and Hungerford, a middle-aged woman who exudes sexuality, Mrs. Cramm. Eustis develops each of her characters well. They are interesting for themselves and for their satirical portrayal of university life as well as for their possible role in the murder. Other characters in the novel include the college president who is anxious to avoid unfavorable publicity for the school, a reporter clumsily investigating the murder, and a psychiatrist Dr. Forstmann.
The book's wry observations about love, college life, and literature are at least as important as the solving of the murder. The book has a heavily psychological, Freudian cast evidenced in the portrayal of Forstmann. This mid-20th century novel shows and accepts social and sexual mores different in many respects from those of today. It is valuable to be reminded of changing perspectives to avoid taking one's own point of view as absolute. At one key point of the novel. Forstmann adopts the words of one of the characters and suggests that life can be viewed as exhibiting a "poetry of unreason". Forstmann explains:
"Because psychiatrists aren't intended to be poets, they're scientists, they're obliged professionally to take the dew off the rose and analyze it as H2O. That's their function. But when, on my busman's holidays, I've thought of madness, it seems more easily explained to me as poetry in action. A life of symbol rather than reality. On paper one can understand Gulliver, or Kafka, or Dante. But let a man go about behaving as if he were a giant or a midget, or caught in a cosmic plot directed at himself, or in heaven or hell, and we feel horror -- we want to disavow him, to proclaim his as far as possible removed from ourselves."
The late Helen Eustis (1916 -- January 11, 2015) attended Smith College and did graduate work at Columbia. She wrote several novels and stories in addition to "The Horizontal Man", including a Civil War novel, "The Fool Killer" which in 1965 was made into a film starring Anthony Perkins. In her latter years, Eustis translated several important books from French including "When I was Old" by Georges Simeon.
I was glad to get to know this fine, little-known novel and to learn something about its author. The LOA and Sarah Wineman deserve kudos for preserving the work of women crime writers, including Helen Eustis, as part of America's literature.