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The Finishing Stroke (1958)

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 third).

The Finishing Stroke - cover GollanczThe Finishing Stroke - cover Simon & Schuster, N.Y. 1958 Book Club (BCE -BOMC)The Finishing Stroke - cover Simon & Schuster, N.Y. 1958 Book Club (BCE -BOMC)The Finishing Stroke - cover Signet Books #451-Y6819The Finishing Stroke - cover

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 "unpleasantness", I really can't imagine. The fact that a body was found and everyone had to stay made 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" occurrences. Beginning 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.

It not only describes the birth of the male protagonist in 1905 but the cousins must have included some hints to their own background. The first part takes us to Rye. In the second part Ellery passes to Westchester, Mount Kidron, Mammaroneck, White Plains to Alderwood. (White Plains where Frederic Dannay died)
. This is done even more clearly when we are introduced to their first publisher and some aspects of this profession are explained.

Some critics are mentioned and the writers eagerly provide some recommendations of other writers and their books throughout the story. As best-sellers of 1905 : The Crossing by Winston Churchill, John Fox Jr.'s The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Mr.Wiggins and other modern young writers (Jack London, Barr McCutchean, Lincoln Steffens and Joseph C. Lincoln). Different other figures from the movies, theater, music, sport... are mentioned (Clara Bow, Elisabeth Rethberg and Lauri-Volpi, Babe Ruth, Notre Dame,...). Basically the interests Djuna
shared.  We find Ellery reading Anthony Berkeley's The Case of the Poisoned Chocolates enjoying "his skillful elaboration's".

The Finishing Stroke - coverThe Finishing Stroke - cover SignetThe Finishing Stroke - G. K. Hall & Co coverThe Finishing Stroke - cover Chivers Sound Library 6 cassettesThe Finishing Stroke - cover Penguin edition N° 2607, 1967The Finishing Stroke - cover eBook edition,JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc, February15. 2017

The Finishing Stroke - cover audiobook Blackstone Audio, Inc., read by Mark Peckham, May 1. 2014Ellery whistles Greensleeves and frequently quotes in Latin.
The Inspector only sideways enters the story as he is involved in the Arnold Rothstein-murder. Is this anniversary-issue the Duesenberg reappears. (Ellery's car was serviced in a garage situated in West 87th street. He had American snow chains installed

De Dertiende Gast - coverDe Dertiende Gast - coverLe Mot de la Fin - cover French edition Collection le Cachet N°1, 1960.Le Mot de la Fin - cover French edition Collection le CachetLe mot de la fin - cover French edition, éditions J'ai lu, Paris, 1985Le mot de la fin - cover French edition, éditions J'ai lu, Paris, 1998Das zwolfte Geschenk - cover Ullstein Krimi
Das zwolfte Geschenk - Ullstein KrimiDas zwolfte Geschenk - Ullstein KrimiColpo di grazia - cover Italian edition, Il Giallo Mondadori, N° 500, 1-8-1958Colpo di grazia - cover Italian edition I Capolavori dei Gialli Mondadori nr.312, Oct 9.1966Colpo di grazia - cover Italian edition, Nr.552, 1968Colpo di grazia - cover Italian editio Club degli Editori (by license Mondadori)

The Finishing Stroke  Translations
Dutch/Flemish: De dertiende gast  
German: Der dreizehnte Gast  
 (aka Das zwölfte Geschenk)  
French: La mot de la fin  
Italian: Colpo di grazia  
Japanese: 最後の一撃  
Korean: 최후의 일격   
Norwegian: Den tolvte gaven  
Persian: کتاب آخرین ضربه خنجر  
Portuguese: O Golpe de Misericórdia  
aka O Caso dos Gémeos Desconhecidos  
Romanian: Lovitura De Gratie  
Russian: Последний удар  
Spanish: El golpe final (aka El Golpe Fatal)  
Swedish: De tolv julklapparna  

El golpe final - Cover Argentinian edition ACME , April 10. 1959El Golpe Final - cover Spanish edition, G.P. PoliciacaEl Golpe Final - cover Spanish edition, 1962El Golpe Fatal - Cover Spanish edition, Editorial Diana, S.A., Tlacoquemectal, Mexico 1963 and 1966O Caso dos Gémeos Desconhecidos - cover Portuguese edition,  Livros de Bolso / Serie Clube do Crime, Publicações Europa-América, 1958 (?)O Golpe de Misericórdia - cover Portuguese edition; ed. Cultrix Sp Brazilië, 1971
O Caso dos Gémeos Desconhecidos - cover Portuguese edition,  Livros de Bolso / Serie Clube do Crime, Publicações Europa-América, 1994O Caso dos Gémeos Desconhecidos - cover Portuguese edition, Europa-América, 2007ABC-mordet - Cover Danish edition, 2014, Rosenkilde Bahnhof De tolv julklapparna - cover Swedish edition, 1968Surmanisku - cover Finnish edition Gummerus, 1960Lovitura De Gratie - cover Romanian edition, 1969
Lovitura De Gratie - cover Romanian editionПоследний удар - Cover Russian edition, 1994 (Together with Face to Face)Последний удар - Cover Russian edition, 2006 (Includes Face to Face)کتاب آخرین ضربه خنجر - cover Persian edition from 2014 by ویدا (Vida)The Finishing Stroke - cover Japanese edition, Hayakawa Publishing (full cover)최후의 일격(The Finishing Stroke) - cover South-Korean edition,  검은숲, Ellery Queen Collection, Jun 30. 2015

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Other articles on this book

(1) Reading Ellery Queen - The Finishing Stroke Jon Mathewson (Jan 2016)
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