click on cover to go back

Q.B.I.: 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.”

To: The Reader
The Queen's Bureau of Investigation
In the closely guarded record room of the Q.B.I. is a top-secret file marked Special. 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.

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 homage’s 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.

Queens Bureau of Investigation - coverQueens Bureau of Investigation - cover Pan Books PAN G484, 1961Queens Bureau of Investigation - coverQueens Bureau of Investigation - Dustcover Gollanz, 1955
Queens Bureau of Investigation - coverQueens Bureau of Investigation - cover SignetQueens Bureau of Investigation - cover Mayflower Books Ltd.1968
Q.B.I. - cover Road, July 28, 2015Q.B.I. - cover audiobook Blackstone Audio, Inc., read by Traber Burns, December 2015

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 Q.B.I. 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 William MacHarg's1  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.

1 MacHarg, 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.

Bureau de Recherches - cover French edition Un Mystere N°242  1955Ellery Queen E L'Accusato - cover Italian edition, Il Giallo Di Epoca, N°1346, July 21. 1976Agenzia investigativa di Ellery Queen - Italian cover ed.Mondadori, series 'Il raconti di Ellery Queen' N° 4, 1984Agência de investigações - cover Portuguese edition, Minerva, N°82Oficina de investigación de Queen - cover Spanish edition, Molino, coleccion selecciones de Biblioteca Oro, 1949БЮРО РАССЛЕДОВАНИЙ КВИНА - Cover Russian edition, 2007 (also includes The Tragedy of Z.)
Queen's Bureau of Investigation - cover Japanese edition, Hayakawa Publishing (full cover)Queen's Bureau of Investigation - Cover Japanese edition, Nan'un-do,  Tokyo Queen's Bureau of Investigation - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, April 1. 2012Queen's Bureau of Investigation - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, April 1. 2012퀸 수사국(Queen's Bureau of Investigation) - cover South-Korean edition,  검은숲, Ellery Queen Collection, Jan 25 2016

Q.B.I.: Queen's Bureau of Investigation Translations:
French: Bureau de recherches 
Italian: Agenzia investigativa di Ellery Queen 
(aka Ellery Queen E L'Accusato) 
Japanese: kui-nkensatsukyoku 
Korean: 퀸 수사국 
Portuguese: Agência de investigações 
Spanish: Oficina de investigación de Queen 

Click if you think you can help out...!

Other articles on this book

(1) Reading Ellery Queen - The Lady Couldn't Explain Jon Mathewson
(2) Reading Ellery Queen - Miser's Gold Jon Mathewson
(3) Reading Ellery Queen - Money Talks Jon Mathewson
(4) Reading Ellery Queen - The Three Widows Jon Mathewson
(5) Reading Ellery Queen - The Vanishing Wizard Jon Mathewson
(6) Reading Ellery Queen - Kidnaped Jon Mathewson
(7) Reading Ellery Queen - Lady You're Dead Jon Mathewson
(8) Reading Ellery Queen - Cold Money Jon Mathewson
(9) Reading Ellery Queen - The Mysterious Black Ledger Jon Mathewson
(10) Reading Ellery Queen - My Queer Dean! Jon Mathewson
(11) Reading Ellery Queen - The Phantom Train Jon Mathewson
(12) Reading Ellery Queen - The Myrna Bird Mystery Jon Mathewson
(13) Reading Ellery Queen - The Accused Jon Mathewson
(14) Reading Ellery Queen - A Question of Honor Jon Mathewson
(15) Reading Ellery Queen - A Matter of Seconds Jon Mathewson
(16) Reading Ellery Queen - G.I. Story Jon Mathewson

previous indepth review... b a c k   t o  Q  B  I next indepth review...

© MCMXCIX-MMXX   Ellery Queen, a website on deduction. All rights reserved.