| he Fourth Side of the
Frightfully rich and
awesomely respectable, the McKells had never been touched by scandal. At least, not until
Dane McKell discovered his father's secret affair. Determined to protect his mother, he
forced a meeting with the other woman.
Dane McKell, millionaire socialite, was planning an exhilarating summer when he
discovered to his horror that his father was having an affair with another woman. The
McKells were not only very, very rich, they were also very, very respectable, and Danes
mother was a gentle and lovely lady.
|Above left to right: dust and hardcover for Random House (BCE) Book Club Edition; dust and hardcover for Random House; dust covers for Gollancz (1965) and Gollancz (1977). (Click on the covers to see the differences) *|
The Sydney Morning Herald, April 9. 1966 "Ellery
Queen in form" by Edward Warre
"Mr. Queen's recent books have shown such a falling off in quality as to prompt the feeling that he had written himself out. He has, after all, been going for a very long time. It is, therefore, for one who enjoyed his early novels very much, all the pleasanter to be able to report that in 'The Fourth Side of the Triangle' he has struck form again, and recovered his old verve and pace and, above all, ingenuity of plot. The McKell family is old and rich and established. Why does the senior McKell periodically secretly disguise himself as a doctor? Another woman, says his wife. His son's determination to find out what is really happening leads to violence and death and a very neat puzzle."
Well written, fast-moving story with plenty of surprises. The characters are very well drawn and seem to interact very naturally, almost letdown for the true fan since Avram Davidson completed the manuscript of this Ellery Queen novel, in late April 1963 based on a 71 page Dannay outline subsequently revised by Lee and Dannay.
"Times are changing" with probably one of the most "explicit" on the subject of sexual content. Ellery seems content in his non-marital status and even got past his usual shyness when he almost asked his nurse on a date. I'm still not quiet sure if Sheila is depicted in a kind way (career woman) or as a (man-eating) shrew. Now she would have been the first while in 1965 it must have been the latter.
The first solution is great. Almost to prove Ellery is fallible a second solution comes to the surface. Not depending on Ellery's cunning abilities but rather on the Inspector's talents. This disappointing "deus ex machina" is not in keep with the rules of fair-play and is given only a few pages...
It is no surprise that, American public's fondness for courtroom drama in mind, a simplified TV-Movie was made "Ellery Queen" (TV pilot aka "Too Many Suspects").
Despite the ghostwriter some typical Queenian references are made to "Queen's favorite writers" as Chesterton's postman is mentioned as are E. Phillips Oppenheim1 and Conan Doyle. It surely isn't the first time some criticism crept into the novels and this time, I feel, no exception was made when the rich Dane McKell says: "... A lot of writers have to write stuff they loathe, just to keep the fuel pump running..."
|1 E(dward) Phillips Oppenheim, (1866 - 1946) the prince of storytellers, wrote 115 books and 39 anthologies, and became famous with The amazing quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss|
The story unfolds itself in New York in the middle of the 20th century more than likely between the (hot) summer of 1963 and January 1964. Ellery went up to Wrightsville in the Mahoganies where a movie outfit was shooting some winter scenes with a camera on a bobsled, which ran into him. After the ski accident Ellery was treated in the private pavilion of the Swedish-Norwegian Hospital in Murray Hill. The "genial" Dr. Johanneson treated Ellery's legs which had been put in casts. A technique Dr. Johanneson had invented reducing our hero to a "wheelchair detective" who had to be hoisted in and out of bed. Contrary to what one would now expect he had to stay several months in hospital.
The gray-haired detective Pigott ("Piggie") and detective Zilgitt, who looked like Sugar Ray Robinson, aided in the case. They were assisted by detective Mack of the 17th precinct. As did the ever present Sergeant Velie, "The tall one with the sledgehammer hands and the rumbling voice". Inspector Queen is very tolerant of his son's wishes which sometimes stretches our believes. No Prouty, no Djuna (no West 87th!), no Nikki (although Judith 'Judy' Walsh comes close). No pince-nez, no Duesenberg and no cigarettes (which had to be a problem in light of his smoking habits and the lengthy time he spend in hospital).
|Above: The Fourth Side of the Triangle was published in Toronto Star Weekly, December 19. and 26. 1964. Illustration by Gerry Sevier.|
Other articles on this book
(1) Reading Ellery Queen - The Fourth Side of the Triangle Jon Mathewson (Apr 2016)
(2) Only Detect - Mike (July 13. 2020)
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