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Inspector Richard Queen wanted to know the identity of the murdered man. How could he solve a murder mystery without knowing who was murdered? The body was found in a private room of the Hotel Chancellor; no one connected with the investigation had ever seen the man before. His name, where he came from, why he was there, remain a mystery to the end. Yet all who were enmeshed in the web of the tragedy found their lives changed by the death of the nameless nobody.
But even more baffling was the amazing scene of the crime. Everything had been turned backwards: the victim's clothing had been turned backwards, the rug was upside down, the pictures were facing the wall. And what was the explanation of the ramrods stuck up the victim's back?

A puzzling publishing murder attracts the eye of Ellery Queen.

Mandarin Press is a premier publishing house for foreign literature, but to those at the top of this enterprise, there is little more beautiful than a rare stamp. As Donald Kirk, publisher and philatelist, prepares his office for a banquet, an unfamiliar man comes to call. No one recognizes him, but Kirk’s staff is used to strange characters visiting their boss, so Kirk’s secretary asks him to wait in the anteroom. Within an hour the mysterious visitor is dead on the floor, head bashed in with a fireplace poker, and everything in the anteroom has been quite literally turned upside down. The rug is backwards; the furniture is backwards; even the dead man’s clothes have been put on front-to-back. As debonair detective Ellery Queen pries into the secrets of Mandarin Press, every clue he finds is topsy-turvy. The great sleuth must tread lightly, for walking backwards is a surefire way to step off a cliff.

"Without doubt the best of the Queen stories." -- New York Times
 
The Chinese Orange Mystery - dust cover Stokes edition, 1934. Stokes had three printings (1st April, 1934; 2nd June, 1934 and 3rd July, 1934)The Chinese Orange Mystery - hard cover Frederick Stokes edition, 1934. Stokes had three printings (1st April, 1934; 2nd June, 1934 and 3rd July, 1934)The Chinese Orange Mystery - dust cover Grosset & Dunlap edition, 1934 reprintThe Chinese Orange Mystery - hard cover Grosset & Dunlap edition, 1934 reprint
The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover International Readers League, 1934The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Triangle Books, Blakiston,1945The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Triangle Books, Blakiston, September 1945The Chinese Orange Mystery - Hardcover Triangle reprint 1942
The Chinese Orange Mystery - Hardcover Triangle, November 1943 (6th Triangle reprint)
Above: The first books published sometimes had identical front covers. The spine of the books/dust cover only differ in the publisher's logo. Top row left to right: Both dust cover and hard cover for Stokes, dust and hard cover for Grosset & Dunlap.
Bottom row left to right:  cover International Readers League, dust cover for Triangle Books followed by three variations for the hard cover (Click on the covers to see the differences) *
 
The Nassau Daily Review (Long Island), "Pens and Margins" by Frank A. Culver - July 10. 1934

"The perennial summer crop of murder-mystery novels proves itself to be in something of a hey-day with the appearance of the titles mentioned above. The Queen opus may be recommended as a puzzler to even the most seasoned readers of detective stories or experts in the deductive art of ratiocination. ... I may say here that I, by no means the most avid follower of mystery tales in this world, was sufficiently diverted to spend a good hour with this book. ... Here the author has gathered all the tricks and properties of the detective story proper, as well as some which must be new to the trade.
There is, of course, the inevitable murder. But this is a unique thing in the way of detective story murders. The victim remains unidentified until the very last minute, so to speak; and since the solution of the plot deepens and the mystery thickens continuously up until the last half of the last chapter.
I must admit that the solution of the mystery, once it is read, is a bit disappointing. At least, it seemed that way to me. I am a bit wary of detective stories, though, for that very reason. The endings, usually, make me feel as if I had been tricked. Such is the ending of "The Chinese Orange Mystery." The manipulations of Detective Queen seem Just a little reminiscent of those impossible and ridiculously intricate machines that Rube Goldberg invents in his cartoons. But then, after all, I know the solution of the mystery now; and you, my dear readers, do not.
And if you submit yourselves to Mr. Queen's compelling enigma, I'll wager that you will be loath to quit the book until the solution, intricate as it is, is yours. That's the worth and the charm of detective stories, until you know what the solution is, it has a charm so wholly magnetic that the complication of incidents possesses itself of your whole consciousness.
Suffice it to say that there are many plots and cross plots in this book ... and that before he has solved the mystery itself, the author has also solved several ghastly complications that threaten to disrupt things entirely. There are the usual alarming characters, a seductive adventuress, an irascible old gentleman, a sneaky-looking foreigner, and so on. And what is more, all the clues in the mystery seem to be backwards, so that the author's subtitle "A Study in Deduction" is a truism indeed. The very double meaning of the title is not revealed until the last chapter."


Buffalo Evening News, - June 23. 1934

"Another Top-Notcher written by Ellery Queen.
THOUSANDS of eager fans are awaiting the latest analytico-deductive problem from the author whose books appear in nine different languages, who has never written a failure, and whose most original and exciting thriller is this breathless tale of the unknown man whose body was found in a private room on the 22d floor of a hotel. His death shadowed the lives of seven prominent people, none of whom had ever seen or heard of him.
The oddest thing of all was that the victim had his clothes on backward, and that everything in the room where the crime was committed — chairs, tables, even mirrors was turned the wrong way. And why had the mysterious stranger been eating a Chinese orange? Watch how Ellery Queen deducts the astounding solution by treading with infinite patience, through the pulsing tide of terror that sweeps lives and fortunes headlong be fore it."

 
The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934) has one of EQ's most baroque and inventive puzzles. It is none too realistic, and the storytelling sags badly between the murder and its solution, but its finale shows the tremendous imagination of the Golden Age mystery tale. It is similar to The Dutch Shoe Mystery in that it depends on a floor plan, but is even better as a complex plot. In some ways, it is the fulfillment of the promise of that early novel, one that blossoms out into full-fledged surrealism and splendor. Both books seem Chestertonian. Maybe this book is the most John Dickson Carr like of Queen's novels, and it is regarded as an experiment by its author in writing a John Dickson Carr book. However, a comparison of the dates suggests that it was written before Carr became "himself", and if there were influence here it would be in the other direction. The technique of the book is closely related to the "impossible crime", although EQ does not actually use it to create an impossible crime situation in the novel. Despite this, many historians of the locked room story seem to (falsely) remember it as a "locked room" book; it appeared on the poll of the top ten impossible crime books, for example, conducted by Edward D. Hoch for the Mystery Writers of America. This false memory is a remarkable case of collective amnesia. On a deeper level, the mystery writers who told Hoch that it was one of their favorite locked room stories were essentially right: it does come straight out of the impossible crime tradition. (Michael E.Grost)
The Chinese Orange Mystery - Cover Mercury Mysteries, Mercury Books, 1935The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Pocket Books (Hoffman Art).The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover of Reader's League of America-Armed Services Edition, No Number, circa 1942-43. Cover art appears to be by Hoffman or is similar. The volume bears the Pocket Book emblem, and mimics the Pocket Book format of the time.The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover
The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover pocket book edition, Pocket Book, August 1950 (25th printing)The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover pocket book edition, Pocket Book, 1962 (27th printing)The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover SignetThe Chinese Orange Mystery - 50th Ann.Edition Signet Books #451-E8759
The Chinese Orange Mystery/Wife or Death - cover paperback edition, Signet Double Mystery, 451-AE2341, June 7. 1983

The nurse is named Diversey ; one wonders if this is in homage to MacKinlay Kantor's first novel, Diversey (1928). Hammett is also mentioned by name in this book. The suspects named Macgowan (with a small g) could be a  reference to Kenneth Macgowan (as in The Origin of Evil), who edited the anthology Sleuths (1931). (Michael E.Grost)

Anthony Boucher's Nine Times Nine, indulges in the "noblest pursuits possible to characters in a book": chapter fourteen features a discussion of the book's locked-room problem in terms of fiction, and specifically in terms of Carr's famous analysis "The Locked-Room Lecture" in The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins). Which is putting the cards on the table with a vengeance, since in retrospect you can see that the whole impossible-crime trick of Nine Times Nine is a clever fusion of (a) a stage property from The Hollow Man itself and (b) a throwaway line in that book, concerning Ellery Queen's Chinese Orange Mystery: "Ellery Queen has shown us still another method [of tampering with bolts], entailing the use of the dead man himself -- but a bald statement of this, taken out of its context, would sound so wild as to be unfair to that brilliant gentleman."

The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover international edition in English, The AlbatrossThe Chinese Orange Mystery - Cover Penguin BooksThe Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Gollancz edition, London, June 1934 (1st)The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover edition Gollancz, London,  January 1935 (2nd impressionn, first cheap edition)The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover edition Gollancz, London, 1949 (8th impression) with red hard cover and golden lettering on spineThe Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Victor Gollancz, 1972, London

Ellery again with pince-nez, bachelor who has his own view on marriage. He smokes cigarettes and uses an wooden stick. No mention of the Duesenberg.
Richard studied in Heidelberg, he used to be captain in an outside N.Y. district. He solved a case in 41 St. where cocaine-pusher Dippy Mc Guire got a bullet in the belly.
Djuna and Dr.Prouty (with a cigar) reappear. The NYPD is represented by Ritter, Hesse, Pigott, Johnson and sergeant Velie. The story is set during one week in N.Y. where Donald Kirk is beaten to death in the Chancellor hotel.

There is a challenge for the reader present and in it Ellery apologizes about having nearly forgotten a challenge to the reader in the last book and to have forgotten it in the previous book as well. (There was no challenge in The Siamese Twin Mystery
).

Movie (more or less): The Mandarin Mystery.

The Chinese Orange Mystery - audiobook performed by Michael Prichard on 8 cassettes (8 hours)The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover eBook edition MysteriousPress.com/Open Road, February 5, 2013The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover audiobook Blackstone Audio, Inc., read by Richard Waterhouse, November 1. 2013The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Penzler Publishers 'American Mystery Classics', 2018 (released in both hardcover and trade paperback)The Chinese Orange Mystery - hardcoverThorndike Press Large Print "Penzler Publishers 'American Mystery Classics' ", January 2019
 
Evening Star, "Among the stamp collectors" by James Waldo Fawcett - Dec 15, 1940

"The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen is another detective story featuring a murder committed for a postage stamp - a mythical treaty port error. Its author knows something about philately, but not much about the literary use of the English language. His style is a crime more intriguing than that which he attempts to solve."


The Courier-Mail, Brisbane
- August 25. 1934 - "Some Short Reviews of the Latest Books"

"Murder mystery and sudden death are the everyday topics of that clever American writer, 'Ellery Queen,' who shares with his compatriot, S. S. Van Dine (the creator of 'Philo Vance), a wide English popularity. Ellery Queen, visiting the palatial flat of a millionaire friend, discovers a chance visitor not only murdered but the room completely disarranged and the victim's clothes on back to front. The whole setting- of the unusual and peculiar crime has an atmosphere of calculated evil that the author deftly manages to convey to the reader. However, Ellery Queen patiently works his way through half a dozen or so curious little sub-plots, and with characteristic aplomb unearths the real criminal."


 
Issue of Redbook from June, 1934 with the complete book-size novel "The Chinese Orange Murder" .
Above: Issue of Redbook from June, 1934 with the complete book-size novel The Chinese Orange Murder.
 


Moord Achterstevoren - cover Dutch edition, Servire Moord Achterstevoren - coverMoord Achterstevoren - coverMoord Achterstevoren - cover reprint Van toen.nu, September 2008Le Mysterieux Monsieur X - cover French edition, Collection L'Empreinte N°65, Edition de la Nouvelle Revue Critique, 1935Le Mysterieux Monsieur X -  French cover ed. Albin Michel Le Limier, 1951
L'Orange de Chine - French edition J'ai lu P39, 1965Le Mysterieux Monsieur X  - French cover ed. j'ai Lu N°1918 in the Policier collection, 1986Le Mysterieux Monsieur X - French cover ed.J'ai Lu  Nr 1918 in the Polar collection, 1994Das Ratsel der chinesischen Mandarine - cover Ullstein KrimiChinesische Mandarinen - German cover Kriminal Roman. Published by Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag 1951Chinesische Mandarinen - German cover Kriminal Roman. Published by Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag 1961

The Chinese Orange Mystery Translations: 
Brazilian: O misterio da laranja Chinez
(aka O misterio da Tangerina) 
Czech: Záhada čínského pomeranče 
(aka Záhadný návštěvník) 
Danish: Mordet i Hotel Chancellor (aka Mord og mandariner) 
Dutch/Flemish: Moord Achterstevoren 
Finnish: Kiinalaisen appelsiinin arvoitus 
French: Le Mysterieux Monsieur X (aka L'Orange de Chine) 
German: Chinesische Mandarinen 
(aka Das Ratsel der chinesischen Mandarine) 
Greek:  Ο νεκρός τραβάει το σύρτη  
(aka Ο Νεκρός Τραβάει Το Σύρτη)  
Hungarian: A mandarin bűnügy  
Indonesian: Serba Terbalik  
Italian: Il delitto alla Rovescia (aka Delitto Alla Rovescia) 
Japanese: チャイナ橙の謎 (cyainadaidainonazo) 
Korean: 중국 오렌지 미스터리 
Persian: کتاب راز پرتقال چینی 
Portuguese: O misterio da laranja Chinesa 
Romanian: Misteriosul Domn "X" 
Russian: Тайна китайского апельсина 
aka Тайна китайского мандарина 
 Spanish: El misterio de la mandarina 
aka El Misterio de la Naranja China 
Swedish: Mandarinmysteriet 
Turkish: Çin portakalı 

Delitto alla Rovescia - cover Italian editionDelitto alla Rovescia - cover Italian edition, Collana Dei Capolavori Dei  Gialli Mondadori Nr 220, 1963Delitto alla Rovescia - cover Italian edition I Classici del Giallo Mondadori, Nr 398, April 27.1982Il delitto alla Rovescia - cover Italian edition, Giallo Mondadori Nr 14, 1985Il delitto alla Rovescia - cover Italian edition Collana Oscar Gialli, Nr 113, 1988Il delitto alla Rovescia - cover Italian edition, 2005Il delitto alla Rovescia - cover Italian edition, Oscar Giallia, Mondadori, Nov 29 2016
Il delitto alla Rovescia - cover Italian edition, Oscar Giallia, Mondadori, Nov 29 2016O misterio da Tangerina - cover Brazilian edition Coleçao Amarela, Livraria do globo vol.132, 1948El misterio de la mandarina - cover Argentinian edition, Oro Amarilla Molino, 1936El misterio de la mandarina - cover Argentinian edition, Oro, June 19. 1940El Misterio De La Naranja China - cover Spanish edition printed in Chili, Coleccion "La Linterna", Zig-Zag, 1945El misterio de la mandarina - soft cover Spanish edition, Selecciones biblioteca oro, Molino, 1952
El misterio de la mandarina - hard cover Spanish edition, Selecciones biblioteca oro, Molino, 1952
El misterio de la mandarina - cover Spanish edition Picazo editors, Barcelona, Coleccion Polismen, 1980El misterio de la mandarina - cover Spanish edition, Selecciones biblioteca oro Nr 72El Misterio De La Naranja China - Printed in Mexico in Spanish, colleccion CaimanEl Misterio De La Naranja China - Printed in Mexico in Spanish, Editorial Diana, 1971O mistério da laranja Chinesa - cover Portuguese edition 2022

Ο νεκρός τραβάει το σύρτη - Cover Greek edition Athens, Paperback Atlantis,  Pechlivanidis & Co, 1955Záhadný návštěvník - Cover Czech edition, 1935Záhadný návštěvník - Cover Czech edition, 1950Záhada čínského pomeranče - Czech edition, 1992, AmetystZáhada čínského pomeranče - Czech edition, 2011, Naše vojskoA mandarin bűnügy - cover Hungarian edition, Athenaeu, Budapest 1935
A mandarin bűnügy - cover Hungarian editionA mandarin bűnügy - cover Hungarian edition, Budapest, 1990Mord og mandariner - Cover Danish edition, LademannMord & mandariner - Cover Danish edition, LommeromanenMord og mandariner - cover Danish edition, 2015, Rosenkilde BahnhofMandarinmysteriet - cover Swedish edition, Bonniers, 1938
Çin portakalı - cover Turkish edition, Akba editions 1968O misterio da laranja Chineza - cover Brazilian edition, Vampiro Nr.2
Kiinalaisen appelsiinin arvoitus - Finnish edition Book studio nr 42, 1990Тайна китайского мандарина - cover Russian compilation, contains "The Chinese Orange Mystery" (Тайна китайского мандарина) by Ellery Queen & Ngaio Marsh's "Final Curtain" (Последний занавес), publisher Sigma press Selena (Сигма-пресс, Селена), 1993.Тайна китайского мандарина - cover Russian compilation, contains three Ellery Queen stories, "The Chinese Orange Mystery" (Тайна китайского мандарина), "Face to Face" (Лицом к лицу) & "A Study in Terror" (Неизвестная рукопись доктора Уотсона), Publisher Canon (Kahoh), 1994.Тайна египетского креста - cover Russian compilation, includes "The Egyptian Cross Mystery" (Тайна египетского креста) & "The Chinese Orange Mystery" (Тайна китайского мандарина), publisher Centrograph (Центрполиграф), 2004.
Serba Terbalik - cover Indonesian editionSerba Terbalik - cover Indonesian edition, Ed. Sinar Kumala, 1980کتاب راز پرتقال چینی - cover Persian edition from 2015 by ویدا (Vida)The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Arakisha, 1950The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, June 1958The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo Sogensha, February 1. 1961
The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Kadokawa Bunko, 1964The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo Sogensha (full cover), June 1970The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Kadokawa Bunko, October 1970, 10th PrintingThe Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Hayakawa Pocket Mystery BookThe Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Hakusuisha publishingThe Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo Sogensha, 1979
The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Hayakawa Publishing, June 1980The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo Sogensha, Somoto Reasoning Paperback, 1990The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Kadokawa Bunko, July 15. 2011The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Japanese edition, January 2015,  Kadokawa ShotenThe Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, June 2008The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, March 2013
The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Taiwanese edition, 1997The Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Taiwanese editionThe Chinese Orange Mystery - cover Taiwanese edition, December 27. 2004중국 오렌지 미스터리 (The Chinese Orange Mystery) - cover South-Korean edition, Sigma Books, Oct 1. 1994중국 오렌지 미스터리 (The Chinese Orange Mystery) - cover South-Korean edition, Dongsuh Mystery Books, 검은숲, May 1. 2003중국 오렌지 미스터리 (The Chinese Orange Mystery) - cover South-Korean edition,  검은숲, Ellery Queen Collection, Jul 2. 2012
 


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Other articles on this book

(1) Reading Ellery Queen Jon Mathewson (Feb 2014)
(2) The Topsy-Turvy Murder Ho-Ling (May 16. 2013)
(3) My Reader's Block Bev Hankins (January 13. 2011)
 
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