cover image The Unsuspected

The Unsuspected

Charlotte Armstrong. Penzler, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61316-123-4

Can it ever be ethical to gaslight someone? That’s the intriguing question raised by this superb entry in the American Mystery Classics series, originally published in 1946. Rosaleen Wright, secretary to director Luther “Grandy” Grandison, was found hanging in Grandy’s Connecticut home, an apparent suicide. But that verdict doesn’t sit well with her friend, Jane Moynihan, and Jane’s nephew, Francis Howard, who suspect Grandy of murder. The pair devise an intricate plan that includes getting Jane a position as Rosaleen’s replacement to get access to the household. Meanwhile, Francis will pretend to be the husband of one of Grandy’s wards, Mathilda “Tyl” Frazier—who was lost at sea, leaving Grandy in control of her fortune—in order to give him a reason to look into Grandy’s finances. But the scheme takes a serious hit when Tyl resurfaces alive and well, forcing Francis to pretend that Tyl somehow lost her memories of the event. Armstrong (1905–1969) is especially good at making readers doubt which characters they should be rooting for, while maintaining a nail-biting level of suspense. (Mar.)