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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Unsuspected

cover image By: Armstrong, Charlotte (female)
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Corp. (Berkley Medallion Book X1391)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 836: PS3501 .R592 U57 1967
Contributor: J. Lukin


Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: Charlotte Armstrong Geographic Locale: New York City and Dedham, Connecticut Date of Publication: 1967  |  Original Date: 1946 Setting: urban; upper-class New York haunts; a wealthy home in Connecticut; a basement in the slums; a garbage incinerator Motives: murder (to conceal greed and embezzlement)

Plot Summary

Francis Moynihan returns from the War to find that his fiancee has killed herself. Or has she? It seems a strange coincidence that such a lively, optimistic girl committed suicide just as she was about to reveal incriminating information about her employer's financial dealings. But that employer, a famed director, writer, and philanthropist is above suspicion. To investigate the man, Francis must insinuate himself into his household under false pretenses. Then he finds that he not only has to unearth evidence of one murder but prevent the killer from striking again. He fails, as the director exploits the trust placed in him by his adoring household to kill again with impunity. Can Francis open the eyes of those in danger from the preternaturally persuasive old man? Will the miscreant murder everyone who gets in his way as Francis watches helplessly? Will the old man use his influence with the Sanitation Department to have Francis thrown into an incinerator? We don't find out until the suspense-filled penultimate chapter.

Major Characters

Francis Moynihan a.k.a. Francis Howard, adult male, 25 years old, tall, dark, lean and handsome; seemingly a gentleman of leisure

Jane Moynihan adult female, near thirty; cute blue-eyed blonde, secretary

Tom Gahagen adult male, small, lean and nervous; Chief of Detectives in the Dedham Police Department, but loath to suspect foul play

Luther Grandison a.k.a. Grandy, elderly male, cuddly old gent with a sonorous voice, birdlike countenance; retired director of stage and screen, author and radio personality

Mr. Press middle-aged male, large, round head and widely spaced eyes; garbage man whose guilt makes him easy to manipulate

Mrs. Press middle-aged female, very thin and drab; housewife longing for a chance to do someone violence

Althea Conover adult female, twenties, beautiful, with silver hair and eyes, self-absorbed, supported by her husband

Mathilda Frazier adult female, 22 years old, handsome, long dark hair; wealthy heiress

Oliver Keane adult male, young, large and vague; bland, retiring

Level of Violence

much more violence is threatened or inferred than is described -- the only "onstage" violence is a single beating. Violence is generally discussed with contempt or disgust for its perpetrators.


all the major characters are heterosexual. During the time of the novel's action, it seems that no one has sexual relations.

Gender Roles

both men and women are praised for courage and the ability to see through facades; condemned or pitied for cowardice and gullibility. Women tend to be more straightforward and expressive than men. Roles in the occupational sphere are barely considered; none of the major characters seems to need to work for a living.


all of the characters are white. Ethnicity is never mentioned, except inasmuch as the name "Moynihan" might imply Irish ancestry.

Law Enforcement

the police are completely ineffectual.

Subject Headings

New York (N.Y.)/ Connecticut/ Wealth/ Murder/ Motion Pictures

Psychological Elements

everyone is perfectly sane, except for the briefly-glimpsed Mrs. Press, who exhibits a feral sadism. The chief villain is sometimes able to impede or distort people's reasoning and perceptions thanks to his social status, soothing demeanor, and persuasive voice; but these tools work primarily on people whom he has spent years conditioning to trust him.

Film Adaptations

The Unsuspected, 1947, Warner Brothers