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This was my first Ellery Queen. Loving mysteries, I have long intended to get to these books because they're a significant part of the American contributions during the classic mystery writing period. (This one was originally published in 1929). Being a lover of mysteries from that time, so far as I can tell, this is about as good as it gets.
This is the "fun" kind of mystery--where it is laid out as a pure logic problem for the reader from beginning to end. Clues and suspects are plentiful, but the author has (now looking back on it) been very clever in creating a straightforward mystery that the reader could [theoretically] solve along with them. (Clues are everywhere but few red herrings). Toward the end, the author has an aside to the reader, stating that now, at this point, we know as much as the detectives do--there will be no surprises thrown in at the end--and invites the reader to use their own deductive powers to solve the murder/puzzle. Quite a fun book, really--like a giant cerebral murder puzzle. It's "Clue" on steroids. If you know how to pay attention, you can solve the mystery (but fair warning--it is far from obvious and I won't say if I was smart enough to figure it out :-) .
Richard Queen (the father) is a member of the homicide squad--greatly respected by all his peers and superiors (there's a different idea--modern detective stories so often have the main characters butting up against forces that do not support them--so they become lone wolves). But not here--this is a book with "class". Ellery Queen is the son, who for all practical purposes is not a detective, but a book lover, but father & son are unusually close, and Ellery does a great deal of the "detecting" in the team. The book is written without a single swear word, in fact I would call it "polite" much of the time because it is not meant as a series of shocks, but a series of clues to the reader.
It is peppered with some literary allusions, and the occasional Latin phrase (to point out how erudite the father & son are). I feel the need to just comment on how it has a small amount of what would today be viewed as a sort of political incorrectness--a very few comments by characters left me cringing and sad, but I finally decided that the writing represents mindsets of that era, and I believe the authors would be sensitive enough to present a couple of offhand remarks differently today. Although noticeable, it didn't take away from the overall enjoyment.
So there were two authors for the Ellery Queen series. I looked that part up--and it sounds like two men wrote the books--one came up with the logic puzzle sort of setup and the clues, while the other wrote the dialogue and fleshed the books out. I'm old, and have read hundreds of good mysteries in my life. I had heard of Ellery Queen, but never before read one. I was beyond thrilled with this discovery, I'm groggy with lack of sleep this morning because I listened till the wee hours to hear the end, and I cannot wait till I can listen to the next one! I so highly recommend--I wish I could give it all 10 stars!
27 of 28 people found this review helpful
I'm new to Ellery Queen, and I found this to be a good story with an interesting plotline. It was written early last century and shows it - the action doesn't move extremely quickly and the discussions move at a slower pace. The villain is a surprise, not because the author 'cheated', but because the plot twists and clues are subtle. Possibly once I have read a number of these I will be better at predicting the ending, but I doubt it. I very much enjoyed the plot and most of the characters.
One note: this book was written in a time when minorities were often portrayed almost as caricatures. I can generally overlook a certain number of these types of references, but this book has some scenes and descriptions that are pretty shocking by today's standards. Djuna the houseboy is of gypsy origin, according to Wikipedia, but that is not clear in the text. Djuna is not a major character in the story (he is supposed to be comic relief, I think, but I didn't find him funny) and is portrayed with affection like a pet. If this upsets you, consider reading Rex Stout instead, or at least skipping the few scenes involving Djuna.
I took a star off my overall rating because of the way Djuna was portrayed. He did detract from my enjoyment of the book in spite of my efforts to overlook those scenes.
Bottom line: the story is good, the characters are interesting, and the book is worth reading if you can take a scholarly approach to the portrayal of Djuna as a product of that time. I am going to try a few more of the series and hope for the best.
20 of 21 people found this review helpful