A poet on the faculty of an Ivy League school is found murdered, setting off ripple effects of anxiety, suspicion, and panic in this Edgar Award-winning classic from 1946.
The Horizontal Man was Helen Eustis’s only crime novel, and she won an Edgar Award for it, combining a wildly disparate set of elements into an enduringly fascinating work. In its way it is a classical whodunit that stands comparison with old-school practitioners such as Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers. This mystery transpires in the rarefied precincts of the English department of a venerable college, an English department very much of the restless postwar moment, echoing with references to Freud and Kafka. Eustis finds comedy high and low in a cavalcade of characters bursting at the seams with repressed sexual longings and simmering malice. Beyond the satire, she stirs up–with a narrative whose multiple viewpoints give the book a deliberately modernistic edge–a troubling sense of the mental chaos lurking just beneath the civilized surfaces of her academic setting.