The most baffling
mystery ever encountered by Ellery Queen, the one he couldn't solve even though he knew
the answer. On the 8th night of Christmas your true love sends to you a head with one
closed eye--a warning you will die... A gay Christmas party in a snowbound mansion turns
grim when a guest begins sending anonymous gifts to his hosts. The presents are
mysterious, the messages accompanying them cryptic, but the meaning behind it all is very
clear. It is a slow, deliberate warning of murder--scheduled to arrive on the 12th night
with the final gift--the finishing stroke
"Queen has combined memory and research to create a detailed and delightfully accurate picture of America at the end of the 1920's ... and how good it is to be back there and
then." -The New York Times-
Lee and Dannay almost certainly intended their 30th novel, The Finishing Stroke,
to be their last (as even the title suggests). They had both begun to feel that with the
advance of technology in the science of criminology the traditional sleuth was no longer a
necessity. It would be more difficult now to come up with plots where Ellery's reasoning
process would be needed. It reached back to his "second" case (actually his
One of my personal favorites since we've been served a much more
likeable (fallible) Ellery. The first story I got to read and thanks to the playfulness of
the plot, the many clues and the way all characters seemed suspect my addiction became a
fact. One of my personal favorites only surpassed by some of the earlier works. I
got to re-reading it and it didn't quiet live up to my expectations. Sure, the playfulness
still is there and the way the "number 12-theme" is interwoven with all suspects is very
enjoyable... But the plot is very straightforward. Without the 30 years-span it surely
would have lost some of its appeal. One wonders how John Sebastian could expect his guests
to remain for twelve-days in a house stricken by so much bad luck and other
really can't imagine. The fact that a body was found and everyone had to stay
the plot come to bloom. The climax is thoroughly Queen and lifts this story out of the
ordinary. The final solution does stretch the rules of fair-play a bit and the way the
initial body is explained leaves me somewhat unfulfilled. Still for Queen-fans several
other things make this a remarkable book. The book contrasts to most of the other works by
using exact dates (years) and references to recognizable "historic"
in Ellery's youth in 1929 and ending with his finally solving the case in late middle age
in 1958. This gives the story some "epic" proportions.
whistles Greensleeves and frequently quotes in Latin.
Other articles on this book
(1) Reading Ellery Queen - The Finishing Stroke Jon Mathewson (Jan 2016)
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