click on cover to go back

The Glass Village (1954)

Lynch him! The frail body of Fanny Adams was barely cold when the cry for blood raced through the town as a plague. Shinn Corners' sole celebrity had been slain, her skull split open by a poker, and now the good townspeople were thirsty for vengeance.
So what if there were no fingerprints, no bloodstains, no witnesses to the crime! At least there was a suspect... an outsider with the strange name of Kowalczky... and for the hate-crazed mob that was all the proof anyone needed.
Only two men didn't think so. Judge Lewis Shinn and his nephew Johnny smelled a colossal frame-up. To prove it, though, they had to stage one of the most preposterous trials in history, and hope they could find the real killer before the final yank of the executioner's rope!

The Glass Village - hard cover - title pageThe Glass Village - cover - Pocket Books, 1963The Glass Village - coverThe Glass Village - cover Signet

This novel is supposedly an allegory on and an attack at McCarthyism. Considering the works were EQ nor his father appeared in,  together with Cop Out (1968) this book is one of the two non-Ellery books worth reading. Written by Queen "himself" it sets a claustrophobic atmosphere. It borrows heavily from the setting and characters in a little town in Connecticut where Lee had lived (Rand B.Lee).

Influenced by the realist school, it has a relatively simple plot for an EQ book, and its mystery ideas derive ultimately from Crofts' The Cask (1920).  (Michael E.Grost) 

Shinn Corners is a tiny farming community of about three dozen inhabitants, almost all of whom are strongly imbedded in the Puritan religion. Here we see the links to British mystery in that the story takes place in an isolated community away from other people. One individual, Judge Shinn, represents the only clear thinking around, except for that of an outsider, Johnny Shinn. These two have gone beyond the strict Puritanical philosophy and recognize other forces at work in the world. Johnny Shinn in particular has been in two wars, World War II and Korea, and brings to the New England setting the thinking of a man who has seen the horrors of the world and is left cynical by them. What occurs in the community after one of its number is murdered could not have happened easily if the setting were different. The mood of the story is molded by the buildings, the weather and by what people observe around them. Even the people themselves sometimes appear to be props in the setting rather than characters in the plot. In this sense the novel again demonstrates the formal detective novel’s use of stock characters who add to the mood of the surroundings.

The Glass Village - cover Pocket Book 1082, 1955The Glass Village - cover Victor Gollancz, 1954The Glass Village - cover Victor Gollancz first published August 1954, second impression august 1954The Glass Village - cover Victor Gollancz, 1976
The Glass Village - kaft Penguin, 1963The Glass Village - cover audiobook Blackstone Audio, Inc., read by Robert Fass, March 18, 2014The Glass Village - cover Road, August 4, 2015

Fanny Adams, famous artist and popular matriarch of the community, is murdered and soon afterwards a tramp is captured carrying a sum of money exactly the same as that missing from Fanny’s spice jar. The People of Shinn Corners immediately descend upon the hapless stranger ready to exact just retribution in the tradition of quick Puritan justice. The Puritan nature that cherishes privacy demands that the stranger be punished by the people of Shinn Corners alone, and when representatives of the county seat come to investigate and take over, the Puritan code fights them off. The people of Shinn Corners have a confrontation with the county representatives and win the right to prosecute the tramp mostly due to the clear thinking of Judge Shinn. The Judge stands apart and serves as the clear-thinking link between the Puritan ethic and pure justice. Worldly-wise Johnny Shinn becomes the cool-headed cynical assessor of facts and finally discovers the clue that solves the mystery and seals the fate of the murderer.

Although it is certainly an adult book and as such can be read on many different levels, the novel contains no overtly objectionable language or situations. It is written in a marvelously clear fashion with several build-ups in the plot as it reaches the climax. The Puritan philosophy necessary to understand its impact on the setting is adequately explained early in the book, so that research into Puritanism, while naturally beneficial, is not necessary. The closed society, slowly dying, ensures that only a place like Shinn Corners could be the setting for the events of the novel.

The setting is an essential factor in fully enjoying and understanding the story. Foreshadowed by the map of Shinn Corners, the first image the reader finds. The parochial look of the place is instantly apparent, and the closeness of the place is striking. The town is totally surrounded by woods and even on the page looks like a completely isolated community. Even the narrative bears out that first impression. The drive from Cudburry to Shinn Corners is an increasingly deeper trip away from what looks like normal civilization. The main character, Johnny Shinn, becomes more depressed as he nears Shinn Corners. The foreboding feeling about the place is that time stands still there, and nothing productive is going to happen in the decaying society. Early on in the narrative, another group of setting contextual clues is introduced. Judge Shinn talks about the social shortcomings of the Puritan thought of Shinn Corners residents, and how impossible this philosophy is in modern times. The Judge proves how firmly set Puritanism is in town with an anecdote about the one time the citizens allowed the outside community to intrude, and the disastrous results that occurred.

A third group of setting context clues is introduced through the character of Johnny Shinn. He is an army officer who has recently returned from the Korean War, in which he was an intelligence officer, and he represents the outside world, its philosophies, societies and forward thinking. The ultimate use of setting is how the murder is solved. A painting by the victim, Fanny Adams, provides the final clue. (based on paper by Patrick A. Velardi)

Chosen as one of the best mystery stories of the year by The Mystery Writers of America.

Het Glazen Dorp - Dutch coverHet Glazen Dorp - coverHet Glazen Dorp - cover Hema editionVillage de verre - French edition: Un Mystère N° 212, 1955.Village de verre - French edition J'ai LuSpiel mit dem Feuer - cover German edition Blau-Gelb Kriminalroman 22, 1958. Translation by Ilse Feltmann. Das Rächende Dorf - cover German edition Ullstein Krimi, 1978
Il villaggio di vetro - dustjacket cover Italian edition, Garzanti 1957Il villaggio di vetro - cover Italian edition, August 1976Il villaggio di vetro - cover Italian edition I Giallo Mondadori, N°128, 1984Il villaggio di vetro - cover Italian edition Arnoldo Mondadori, I Classici del Giallo Mondadori n°901, 2001La Aldea de Cristal - Softcover Spanish edition, Cumbre, Mexico, 1956La Aldea de Cristal - Hardcover Spanish edition, Cumbre, Mexico, 1956La ciudad contra Kowalszyk - cover Spanish edition, Barcelona, 1984

The Glass Village Translations:  
Czech: Skleněná vesnice/Sklená dedina   
Danish: Landsby i oprør   
Dutch/Flemish: Het glazen dorp   
French: Le village de verre   
German: Das rächende Dorf   
(aka Spiel mit dem Feuer)  
Greek: Το γυάλινο χωριό   
Italian:Il villaggio di vetro   
Japanese: garasunomura   
Norwegian: Drept for sin godhet   
Portugese: A A
ldeia de vidro   
Romanian:  Iubire în amurg  
Spanish: La Aldea de Cristal (aka La ciudad contra Kowalszyk)   

La ciudad contra Kowalszyk - cover Spanish edition, El Observador, Barcelona, 1991La ciudad contra Kowalszky - cover Spanish edition, Ciudad de Libros (ebook)A Aldeia de vidro - cover Portuguese edition, Coleccao Vampiro, Livros do Brasil, Lisboa, 1955Sklená dedina - Cover Czech edition, 1980Iubire în amurg - cover Romanian edition, Azur, 1998Το γυάλινο χωριό - cover Greek edition (contains 2 books), Viper, 1975Το γυάλινο χωριό - Cover Greek edition, 2009, Δημοσιογραφικός Οργανισμός Λαμπράκη (Lambrakis)
ЗАСТЕКЛЁННАЯ ДЕРЕВНЯ - Cover Russian edition 2007 (together with QED)The Glass Village - cover Japanese editionThe Glass Village - cover Taiwanese edition March 03. 1997The American Mystery/The Glass Village - cover Chinese edition, Masses Press, December 2000The Glass Village - cover Chinese/Taiwanese edition 2006The Glass Village - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, February 2013

Click if you think you can help out...!

previous indepth review... b a c k   t o  Q  B  I next indepth review...

© MCMXCIX-MMXIX   Ellery Queen, a website on deduction. All rights reserved.