French Powder Mystery (1930)|
The French Powder Mystery is a spell-binding tale of crime, intrigue, and extraordinary detection. At crowded noon, in front of Fifth Avenue's most fashionable department store, while hundreds of sidewalk onlookers watch a demonstration of modernistic furniture in the window, the demonstrator touches a button regulating a concealed wall-bed--the bed swings out of the wall--and from its dark recesses tumbles the distorted, crumpled corpse of a beautiful woman....
Ellery Queen moves vitally and refreshingly through his own story -- a slender, cynical young man with a genius for piercing the veil of commonplaces and arriving at foolproof conclusions. Old Inspector Queen, his father, again takes you through the complicated process of a police investigation, although it is Ellery who is responsible for the solution of one of the most stimulating and baffling detective stories ever written. And the denouement is surprising and yet inevitable.
"A brilliant, thrilling, ingenious story."
The fact that this title went through seven impressions, three before publication, before being handed over to the reprinters is some indication of how big a splash Ellery made-and how quickly. The dust jackets of the first prints are extremely elusive, and a high four figure item. "The French Powder Mystery (1930), like its successor, contains a strong initial investigation. It takes up 25 chapters, or the first two thirds of the book, and shows EQ's astonishing skills at constructing a detective story plot. The crime and the events surrounding it develop into ever more complex and logical patterns; Ellery moves through several stages of deduction, each leading to a deeper understanding of the crime itself. The story has considerable beauty; the inquiry about the keys, or the timetables involved show EQ's ability to create fascinating patterns of plot. EQ likes boundaries involving space, time and knowledge. He is fascinated with rooms that have not been entered, lines that have not been crossed, apartments that have been guarded and watched. He is also concerned with who knew things and didn't know things, which in turn often depends on who has participated in events and who hasn't. These become boundary markers in the complex logical geometry of his plots. The limitations of the novel, and its reason for still classifying it as a journeyman work, deal with the solution. Later EQ novels will often have the most startling surprises in their solutions; this book runs out of steam two thirds of the way through, and its solution adds only a single new clue, together with the identity of the murderer. Although logical and fair, not the deeply creative finales of the great EQ books. EQ, as is his wont, has given partial solutions to the crime at several stages in the book, so the reader gets a full mead of deduction and revelation in the novel which leaves almost nothing for the finale."(Michael E.Grost)
We get to know Ellery, again with
walking stick, a thin silver watch and
pince-nez (which isn't exactly the same as a lorgnet), in a much more physical way. He is
described as a tall athletic man with the suggestion of force, looked very intelligent
around the forehead had long fingers and cool stiff lips. He looked thirty but was
actually younger. His clothes came from Bond street. Several references to other cases:
arrest of Don Dickey, an American jewel thief in Berlin for which the mayor gave him a
special aluminum tool for research as award. In the Kingsley Arms murder, O'Shaughnessy
had killed Herrin, which was proven by lifting his fingerprints from dead man's shoe.
"The furniture in The French
Powder Mystery is probably Art Deco, although it is never called by that name in the
novel. EQ calls it "modernist", and gives a vivid and accurate description of
how it was viewed by its contemporaries, both artistically and sociologically. Considering
the tremendous enthusiasm today for preserving America's great Art Deco heritage, with
Deco societies springing up in every city, this book should be better known. EQ was deeply
interested in the world around him. His books form a record of an important era in
American life."(Michael E.Grost)
The challenge to the reader is included, as is the map and the list of characters.