Monday, October 30, 2017

Mystery Monday: The Reilly Ladies

Mystery Monday: The Reilly Ladies

As an undergraduate Psychology major, I read more than my fair share of “nature vs. nurture” papers and textbooks (e.g. is a child an artist because he or she was born of artistic parents or did the parents nurture the skill?). Most experts agree that individuals are a mixture of both, and the Reilly family is a prime example.

Part of a literary family (her brother was an author), Helen Kieran Reilly was a prolific mystery writer who lived from 1891 to 1962. A graduate of Hunter College, she married artist Paul Reilly with whom she had four daughters. She published dozens of novels, at one point becoming the main breadwinner in the household. Her books were among the first police procedurals written, a result of conducting extensive research into the NYC Homicide squad. Inspector Christopher McKee is her most popular character.

Like their mother Ursula Reilly Curtiss and Mary Reilly Wilson (writing under the name Mary McMullen) became well-known mystery authors. Winner of the Red Badge Award for best first novel, Ursula tended to write neo-Gothic romantic suspense with an amateur sleuth as the protagonist. Initially a columnist for the “Fairfield Connecticut News, she moved into working as a fashion copy writer. Her career as an author began after she married John Curtiss in 1947. Winning the Zia award as New Mexico’s outstanding novelist in 1963, she published nearly two dozen books in her thirty-six year career before passing away of cancer in 1984.

Sister Mary also had a successful career. Winner of the Edgar award for best first novel in 1952, Mary took a twenty-two year hiatus before publishing an additional eighteen novels. Described as distinctive, elegant, and fast-paced, her books did not seem to follow any sort of pattern, however, many did draw from her experience in the fashion world. Highly descriptive, the books immerse readers into the setting which forms an integral part of each plot. She published her last book in 1986, the year she passed away.

Have you read any of these gals’ books? 

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