Queen's Bureau of Investigation (1955)
Queen’s Bureau of Investigation is
now open for business – and in each department of this new enterprise
Ellery finds ample opportunity to exercise the brilliant, ingenious, and
at times startling talents of his crime-laboratory mind. For to the bureau
come some of the most plaguy cases in Queen’s career, including:
“The Three Widows” – of whom two were wealthy Theodore Hood’s
daughters and one his widow, all caught in a murder that Ellery
reluctantly relegated to the Impossible Crime Department.
“The Myna Birds” – the story of old Mrs. Andrus, whose bequest
of a million dollars to thirty-eight observant and talkative birds sets
off a chain of violent events leading straight to the Embezzlement
Department – and the only bird-detective on record!
“A Question of Honor” – a matter of considerable international
delicacy, involving indiscreet letters, a Shakespearean scholar from
Scotland Yard, and a crime at once assigned to the Suicide Department.
And numerous other criminals, crimes, follies and felonies find their way
to the bailiwicks of the Q.B.I. From the files of the Buried Treasure
Department comes “Miser’s Gold”; from the Narcotics Department,
“The Black Ledger”; from the Kidnapping Department, “Child
Missing!”; - and many others. In each and every case, Ellery Queen
demonstrates the powers that make him unique among detectives.”
From: The Queen's Bureau of Investigation
In the closely guarded record room of the Q.B.I. is a top-secret file marked
This file contains the most unusual cases I have ever worked on- cases that are memorable
because of an unusual clue, a unique criminal, a surprising situation or a shocking
crime. From these special cases of murder, blackmail, kidnapping and narcotics, I have
chosen eighteen that posed the most mystifying problems I have ever encountered.
- BLACKMAIL DEPT. --
4/2/50 as "The Sound of Blackmail" reprinted in EQMM
- FIX DEPT. --
"A Matter of Seconds"
(This Week, 8/9/53 reprinted in
- IMPOSSIBLE CRIME DEPT. --
"The Three Widows"
(This Week, 1/29/50 as "Murder Without Clues"; reprinted
- RARE BOOK DEPT. -- "My Queer Dean!"
(This Week, 3/8/53, reprinted in
- MURDER DEPT. -- "Driver's Seat" (This
Week, 3/25/51 as
"Lady, You're Dead")
PARK PATROL DEPT. --
"A Lump of Sugar" (This
Week, 7/9/50 as "The Mystery of the 3 Dawn Riders"
2/53 and in EQMM, 03/69 as "Murder in the Park")
- OPEN FILE DEPT. -- "Cold Money" (This Week,
30/03/52 and EQMM, 01/56)
EMBEZZLEMENT DEPT. --
"The Myna Birds"
(as "The Myna Bird Mystery" in
This Week, 12/28/52 reprinted in
EQMM, 9/56 as "Cut, Cut, Cut!" )
- SUICIDE DEPT. -- "A Question of Honor" (This Week,
9/13/53 reprinted in EQMM 05/58)
- HOLDUP DEPT. -- "The Robber of Wrightsville"
Today's Family, 2/53 as "The Accused" and in
- SWINDLE DEPT. -- "Double Your Money"
(This Week, 9/29/51 as "The Vanishing
Wizard" reprinted in
- BURIED TREASURE DEPT. --
"Miser's Gold" (This
Week, 6/18/50 as "Love Hunts a Hidden Treasure";
The Sunday Herald 07/16/50 as "Love Hunts a Hidden Treasure";
in EQMM, 4/54; as "Death of a Pawnbroker" EQMM
- MAGIC DEPT. -- "Snowball in July" (This
Week, 8/31/52 as "The Phantom Train" reprinted in
- FALSE CLAIMANT DEPT. -- "The Witch of Times Square"
(This Week, 11/5/50
- RACKET DEPT. -- "The Gamblers' Club" (This Week,
1/7/51 reprinted in
- DYING MESSAGE DEPT. -- "GI Story" (EQMM,
- NARCOTICS DEPT. -- "The Black Ledger" (This Week,
01/05/52 as "The Mysterious Black Ledger"- in
Woman's Day, 03/31/52 and reprinted in
- KIDNAPPING DEPT. --
(This Week, 7/7/51 as "Kidnaped!", reprinted in
All short stories, except were noted, are © 1949 to 1954. All are copyright to the United Newspaper
Magazine Corporation and were apparently published in This Week.
The little stories collected in
Q.B.I. show EQ's storytelling
ability. Some of them involve very clever puzzle plots by any standards, such as "My
Queer Dean!" and "Snowball in July". But even in minor pieces
like "Cold Money", the reading is surprisingly satisfying. (Michael E.Grost)
In "Cold Money", the
bad guy keeps renting Room 913 of a hotel; as Francis M. Nevins pointed out, this
recalls a similar situation in Cornell Woolrich's The Room With Something Wrong
(1938), which also involves mystery in Room 913. The house dick of the hotel plays a major
role in both tales, as well. This is clearly a homage to Woolrich and one of his best
stories. One suspects that EQ has added little homages and in jokes to many of his
works, playful references to other mystery writers' stories; maybe they are as numerous as
Alfred Hitchcock's cameo appearances in his movies.
In EQ, there is a situation, then some event occurs, and one is in a logical
variation of that situation, and then another event takes place leading to a logical
variation of the preceding, and so on. Even little pieces that are not triumphs of puzzle
plotting can show this kind of unfolding in EQ. Maybe that is why many of EQ's short
pieces are so much fun. EQ's radio play "The Adventure of the Mark of Cain" is a
good example of this. Its use of a kind of logical analysis of a situation through
progressive plotting is especially striking.
The stories in Q.B.I. deal more with the underworld than is typical of EQ. The stories
move very fast and are quite compressed. Often this is done by humorously invoking
clichés of underworld stories, films, and news accounts. The invocation is often done
with wit and clever phrasing. Events are often more synopsized than dramatized, usually
considered a second rate approach, but one that works beautifully here, partly due to EQ's
skill with "le mot juste". This allows tremendously complex stories to be told in a small
space. Even the detection often gets ingeniously summarized." (Michael E.Grost)
"The Yellow Ledger" aka "Ellery
Queen's Greatest Case" a radio script broadcast on 12-17-42 or
12-19-42 was adapted "The Black Ledger" and collected here after originally
being published in This Week.
Many of the tales focus not on murder, but on crimes such as robbery or
impersonation. Three stories of 1951, "Driver's Seat", "Double
Your Money", and "The Gambler's Club", all deal with ingenious
swindles. "Double Your Money", and "Money Talks"
(1950) portray poor, ethnic, working people in New York City, whereas "The Robber
of Wrightsville" (1953) shows class conflict in the "typical" American
town of Wrightsville. This is one of the most left wing of EQ's tales. Most of
strives for relative sociological realism. There is little overt surrealism, although the
disappearances in "Double Your Money" (1951)
and "Snowball in
July" (1952) have their
moments of magical strangeness. This realism might not have been entirely a
matter of EQ's personal preference. By the 1950's, when these tales were
published, Golden Age flamboyance was considered old-fashioned by most
mystery critics. Realism was regarded as the most important trait of a
detective story, and EQ obliged here. The series probably was modeled on
The Affairs of O'Malley (collected 1940), which is a similar series of brief
tales set against authentic New York City backgrounds, with "ordinary people" as
characters. Some of MacHarg's tales, such as "Broadway Murder" and
"Murder Makes it Worse", include swindles as well as murder, although
EQ's approach to swindles is far more mathematical than MacHarg's.
William (Briggs) (U.S. journalist and mystery writer, 1872-1951) His
major contribution to crime fiction was The Achievements of Luther Trant (1910),
written in collaboration with Edwin Balmer. Thirty years after the cerebral Trant book,
MacHarg approached the hard-boiled school with The Affairs of O'Malley, a
collection of short stories about a cop who isn't as dumb as he says he is.