Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931)
Murder in White! A tragic fall -- an impending operation -- strangulation! When Abigail Doorn was wheeled into the operation room at the Dutch Memorial Hospital, her face was strangely blue and bloated. A wire had been tightly wound around her neck. The strongest suspect, because he stood to benefit by the death of this wealthy old woman, was her protégé, the famous Dr. Janney. Just before her death he received a strange caller -- one whose name he would not divulge. Ellery Queen, having come to the hospital to visit his old friend Dr. Minchen, had been present during the time of the murder. He immediately took over the case. Besides the problem of Dr. Janney and his caller, Ellery found himself confronted with still another -- why had Abby Doorn and her housekeeper quarreled continuously for 20 years? The housekeeper admitted she hated the old woman, and with a religious fanaticism declared she was an evil old woman who had received only what she deserved.
|"Carefully constructed ... deserves to be savored."
The London Times
"It has everything needed to make it great." -- Philadelphia Ledger
"A few detective stories stand out from the inky welter of crime, notably 'The Dutch Shoe Mystery'... a splendid story... with real flesh and blood actors, and written with verve and style." -- Morning Post
"The book is thoroughly engrossing." -- Bruce Nae, The New York Times
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: dust and hardcover for
Stokes edition, dust and hardcover Grosset & Dunlap edition.
Bottom row from left to right: dust cover for the Triangle reprints, which had several hard cover versions, with different designs/colours or either "Triangle" or "Blakiston/ Triangle" imprinted on the spine. At least 12 printings exist between January 1940 and July 1943. (Click on the covers to see the differences) *
Buffalo Evening News, "Thrill and Ingenuity"
December 12, 1931
" 'There are only two detectives,' writes a Viennese police consultant, 'for whom I have felt, in my own capacity as hunter-of-men, any deeply underlying sympathy. These two, strangely enough, present the weird contrast of unreality, of phantom and fact. I refer of course to those imperishables - Mr. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, London and Mr. Ellery Queen of West 87th street, New York City.'
With the appearance of his third detective story, this author who uses such an intriguing pen-name fulfills the promise predicted for him by the London Times that 'Ellery Queen is the most logical successor of Sherlock Holmes.'
All ardent readers of detective fiction will remember 'The French Powder Mystery', where at high noon, the corpse of a beautiful woman suddenly tumbles into the window of a Fifth Avenue department store; and 'The Roman Hat Mystery', a murder in a theater, as smoothly performed as the play which is in progress.
Ellery Queen is equally famous for his unusual and striking settings and for the manner in which he employs the process of deduction.
In his latest tale, the richest woman in America is about to have performed upon her a most delicate operation to be done by a young doctor whom she has had educated. In the great operating room of the vast hospital which she has founded, relatives, friends, and even curious acquaintances wait anxiously to learn the result of the operation. The surgeon calls for his patient and a covered form is wheeled in on a stretcher into the amphitheater. The doctor bends over and finds the woman has been murdered only a few moments before...
Who did this ghastly deed, and who wore the Dutch shoes? Vital and refreshing, this absorbing tale will keep the most hardened detective fan up until the 'wee small' hours."
|The Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931) is the third and last of Ellery Queen's apprentice works. The best part of the story is the initial ten chapters, which set up the central crime, and contain the main investigation. The initial murder shows some of Ellery Queen's surrealistic flair, without reaching the flamboyant extremes of much of his later work. These chapters move with the speed and grace They include one of the better and more interesting floor plans in a Golden Age novel. However, nothing much especially interesting happens after Chapter 10, till the finale (Chapter 30), when the crime is explained, with some ingenuity. The mid sections of the book are mainly character studies of the suspects, looks at motives for the murder, etc. They include a well-done portrait of a religious fanatic, which is countered and balanced by many sympathetic quotations from Ellery about religion. Religious imagery will go on to be present in many of EQ's late novels. All in all, this is a decent novella, which has unfortunately been expanded to novel length. (Michael E.Grost)|
Above: Add in the The New York Sun, October 16. 1931 for Stokes' The Dutch Shoe Mystery.
|The book perhaps shows the influence of the Freeman school, with its medical setting, its background of a hospital, its timetable crime, deductions from physical evidence (the shoes of the title), and its solution through that Freeman-Crofts tradition, an alibi depending on "the breakdown of identity". However the story still has an intuitionist feel to it, not to mention one of the fullest imitations of S.S. Van Dine's mannerisms in the Queen canon. Unlike Freeman, medical knowledge plays no role in the mystery, although the hospital setting is deeply integrated into the plot. Most importantly, the logical precision with which the characters move through the floor plan seems very intuitionist indeed. It recalls Chesterton, and his rearrangement of characters and bodies in space and time. The book has a visionary quality, perhaps because it seems to be the product of something truly imagined, to borrow a phrase of Ursula K. LeGuin's. The book is organized around imagery of total whiteness, appropriate for a hospital of the 1920's. Together with the rectilinear architecture of the floor plan, it recalls the abstract art of its time, especially Malevitch's** suprematism, and his painting "White on White". The effect of a "white-out", of a world turned totally white and disappearing into an haze of light, seems strong in this book. Movie (greatly altered): Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring. (Michael E.Grost)|
|** Malevich, Kasimir (1878-1935) Russian painter who died in poverty and oblivion.|
Ellery still using the pince-nez and walking-stick is smoking a pipe and
sometimes is surrounded with cigarette smoke. We learn he can't stand the sight of blood.
Ellery is said to have written the manuscript of "the Murder of the Marionettes" under his
own name. A young Djuna is present as is Dr. Prouty, Sampson and Cronin. The NYPD is
represented by Hesse, Ritter and Velie. Pete Harper a journalist is introduced. It takes
place in N.Y., at the Dutch Memorial Hospital on Center Street- East 60. The Doorn's house
is situated on Fifth av. opposite Central Park. Abigail Doorn is strangled with a wire
The story starts off on a Monday in January. Later in Ten Day's Wonder a case in a N.Y. operating theater is recalled.
All chapter titles end in -ion (variation, explication,...). A Challenge to the Reader is present.
Above right: In the Summer of 1940 this add with coupon was printed in several newspapers. For a 10c (postage and handling) or a dime 3,000 readers could request their copy of "The Dutch Shoe Mystery" (Mercury Books, The American Mercury).
In 1984 (?) Spinnaker Software brought us a video-game based on the plot of this book called Operation MURDER. Here players had to find their own solution using the video material and clues provided through detective cards ...
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, William M. Isaacs - Sunday March 27. 1932
" 'You Can't Win Even in Book - Crooks Get Theirs, as Reader Raises Goose Pimples Over Them.' A well-composed detective story is Ellery Queen's 'The Dutch Shoe Mystery' (Frederick A. Stokes Co.). In this, Queen, who is the detective as well as the author, is confronted with a seemingly inexplicable problem. While paying a visit to the Dutch Memorial Hospital he is invited to witness an operation upon one of the richest and most famous women in America. The operating theater is ready, the small audience is seated, the surgeon calls for his patient. She is wheeled in and placed upon the operating table. The covering sheet is taken off, the patient is dead—strangled. Who could have committed this crime when the victim had been constantly attended? The answer to this is carefully and acceptably worked out. The story has just enough action to keep it interesting."
Above left: French magazine Mon Magazine Policier (Revue Moderne)
published in Montreal, Canada, 1944-45 (?). It featured Le Mystere du
Above right: Молодая Гвардия Russian monthly literary, artistic and socio-political magazine of the Komsomol Central Committee "Young Guard", Issue 5, 6 and 7 of 1979 had The Dutch Shoe Mystery in it.
The Dutch Shoe
Other articles on this book
(1) The Green Capsule Noah Stewart (Dec 2017)
(2) Mysteries Ahoy! Aiden Brack (Jan 2018)
(3) Reading Ellery Queen Jon Mathewson (Mar 2013)
(4) My Reader's Block Bev Hankins (October 13. 2019)
(5) Tale of Two Shoes Ho-Ling (May 11. 2013)
(6) Noah's Archives Noah Stewart (Jul.23 2017)
(7) JetBlackDragonFly... the man who read too much (Oct 1. 2015)
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