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The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932)

From the very beginning, the Khalkis case struck a somber note. It began, as was peculiarly harmonious in the light of what was to come, with the death of an old man. Georg Khalkis, internationally famous art dealer and collector, died of heart failure. After his funeral, his attorney found that the will was missing and immediately called in the district attorney.
When Inspector Queen and his son, Ellery, are brought in to solve the mystery of the missing will, Ellery mentions the one place they have not searched for the will . . . the coffin! Upon exhumation of the Khalkis coffin they find that it contained not one body -- but two!
 

"The Greek Coffin Mystery is a lively and well-constructed yarn containing unusual setting, ingenuity of plot, a surprise solution and legitimate use of the analytical deductive method." -- Herald Tribune Books

The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Pocket Book 3th printing 1943The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover SignetThe Greek Coffin Mystery - coverThe Greek Coffin Mystery - cover
The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Penguin edition, 1957The Greek Coffin Mystery - Dustcover Victor Gollancz Ltd ,1932The Greek Coffin Mystery - Cover Victor Gollancz Ltd ,The Greek Coffin Mystery - Victor Gollancz Ltd ,1971

Ellery Queen investigates the murder of a man who was found mysteriously buried in another man's coffin. There are many suspects, and as the story progresses the plot just gets more and more complex (for most mysteries it's the reverse). It is notable for its four separate solutions, that gradually emerge at the four separate climaxes of the novel, one at the end of each major section. The book demonstrates how much more complex life can be than one originally figures. It also shows how ideas can grow out of each other, gradually leading to more complex ideas. The real and final solution impresses by being "deeper" than the others, containing some very startling surprises. The final solution comes as a genuine shock--when I found out who the murderer was, I was momentarily tempted to throw down the book in disbelief. But Ellery Queen's careful deductive processes show that only (blank) could possibly have committed the crimes. This is an absolute tour de force, a must-read for mystery readers like myself who have, until this point, lived under the illusion that only English writers can construct ingenious plots. Ellery Queen has more than proven that the quality can be an American one as well.

The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover F.A. Stokes Co., NY, 1932The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover F.A. Stokes Co., NY, 1932The Greek Coffin Mystery - Dust cover Triangle Books + Center Books 1943The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover TriangleThe Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Triangle BooksThe Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Collection of Mystery Classics, 1985
 The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Bestseller Mystery #14The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover International Readers LeagueThe Greek Coffin Mystery - cover eBook edition MysteriousPress.com/Open Road (February 5, 2013)The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover audiobook Blackstone Audio, Inc., read by Mark Peckham, 2013-10-01The Greek Coffin Mystery - hardcover Penguin edition in Penguin Drop Caps series  (April 23, 2014)

In the early years there was an unsurpassed urge for symbolism in the work of Ellery Queen. The example most widely used to illustrate this is the fact that first letter of each chapter spelled the title of a book, but only in the 'Greek Coffin Mystery' this was actually so. It does, however, illustrate the playfulness and attention the cousins took to detail.

"All I do know is that he has long seemed to me one of the very best detective authors now writing, and that I always grab every new story of his that comes along." - -J.B. Priestley - Evening Standard

EQ is not an absurdist. The solutions seem logical and well developed, unlike Anthony Berkeley's multiple solution novel, The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929).The novel is derived from E.C. Bentley's 1   Trent's Last Case (1913) which has two solutions, and shows its detective failing to solve the mystery, with the true solution being only revealed by chance after the detective offers a false (if ingenious) explanation. Berkeley used this plot pattern repeatedly in his books, with numerous variations: both multiple solutions and failed detectives abound. Berkeley seems most interested in writing an anti-detective story, showing how each situation can be twisted to express a multitude of interpretations, mocking the idea of detective stories in general, and the ability to understand anything through reason. This sort of absurdism is very far from EQ's approach. EQ is instead interested in showing how reason can go deeper and deeper in a situation, uncovering profounder and profounder ideas. The closest analogy or model for EQ is scientific discovery, wherein a Tycho Brahe will make thousands of factual observations, a Kepler will then group them into laws, and a Newton will finally explain these laws through a system of universal gravitation. EQ's book is a fictionalization of this process, an attempt to create an imaginary situation that fully demonstrates the complexities of human reason.
EQ's later books are not formally organized around multiple solutions; in The Greek Coffin Mystery, the four solutions are the key structural underpinning and organizational principle of the book's design and storytelling. But he retains the technique of partial solutions growing into ever deeper solutions; it returns again and again as a key feature of his detectival technique."
(Michael E.Grost)

According to JJMcC this case precedes the earlier publications and dates back to the years when Ellery was just graduated from college.

There is a challenge to the reader included.

1   E.C. Bentley was a British newspaperman. He only wrote four mystery books, but he was immensely influential and prestigious in his time. His reputation peaked around 1940


De Griekse Doodskist - dutch cover Prisma-Detective nr.111De Griekse Doodskist - coverDe Griekse Doodskist - Dutch "Duo detective" together with Dorothy Sayers' Strong Poison' - Trendboek BV, 1987Deux morts dans un cercueil - cover French edition, Collection Détective, éditions Gallimard, 1934 (Coverart by R. Parry)Deux morts dans un cercueil - cover French edition Editions Denoël Oscar N°24, 1954Deux morts dans un cercueil - cover French edition J'ai lu N° 2449,1988Besuch in der Nacht - cover German edition Ullstein Krimi
Das Verschwundene Bild - cover German edition Der Mitternachtsbücher, 1958Der Sarg des Griechen - cover German edition DuMont's Kriminal BibliothekDer Sarg des Griechen - German edition DuMont's Kriminal Bibliothek, Köln 2001 Nr.1040L'affare Khalkis - cover Italian edition, I Classici del giallo N°282L'affare Khalkis - cover Italian edition ,N°11, 1985L'affare Khalkis - cover Italian edition, I Classici del giallo N°948, March 13. 2003El Misterio del Ataud Griego - cover Spanish edition, Coleccion Aventura y Misterio, Madrid, 1933

The Greek Coffin Mystery Translations:
Chinese: 希臘棺材的秘密 
Czech: Ztracená závěť  (aka Tajemství řecké rakve) 
Danish: Gravens gåde 
Dutch/Flemish: De Griekse doodskist 
Finnish: Ruumiskirstun arvoitus 
French: Deux morts dans un cercueil 
German:Der Sarg des Griechen (aka Besuch in der Nacht 
aka Das verschwundene Bild) 
Hebrew:  תעלומת הרצח בגלריה 
Hungarian: A 13-as számú ház 
Italian: L'affare Khalkis 
Japanese: ギリシア棺の謎 (girisiahitsuginonazo) 
Korean: 그리스 관 미스터리  
Portuguese: O misterio do ataude Grego 
Russian:
Тайна греческого гроба 
Spanish: El misterio del ataúd griego 
(aka El Ataud Griego)
 
Swedish: Konsthandlarens kista 

El Misterio del Ataud Griego - cover Spanish edition, Coleccion Amarilla - Editorial Maucci, 1943El Misterio del Ataud Griego - cover Spanish edition printed in Argentina, Biblioteca de bolsillo, Serie naranja (Novelas Policiales) Nº 78 Buenos Aires lib. Hachette, 1945El misterio del ataúd griego - Spanish edition, 1958 El Ataud Griego - cover Spanish edition, 1962El misterio del ataúd griego - cover Spanish edition, 1970, editial DianaEl misterio del ataúd griego - cover Spanish edition, 1970, translated by Gonzalo F de Códoba y ParrellaEl misterio del ataúd griego - Cover Spanish edition
El misterio del ataúd griego - cover Argentinian editionEl misterio del ataúd griego - Spanish edition (together with Cara a Cara) 1976El Misterio del Ataud Griego - cover Spanish edition, 1987El misterio del ataúd griego - cover Spanish editionEl Ataud Griego - Cover Argentian edition, 2007El misterio del ataúd griego - Cover Spanish edition, Ciudad de Libros (eBook)O misterio do ataude Grego - cover Brazilian edition, Brochada 1964
O misterio do ataude Grego - cover Brazilian edition, Livros do Brasil, Vampiro Nr.39O misterio do ataude griego - Cover Brasilian edition, Coleção AmarelaGravens gåde - cover Danish edition, LademannGravens gåde - cover Danish edition, 2015, Rosenkilde Bahnhof Konsthandlarens kista - cover Swedish edition, Bonniers, 1933Konsthandlarens kista - cover Swedish edition, Bonniers, 1940
Konsthandlarens kista - cover Swedish edition 1963Konsthandlarens kista - cover Swedish edition, Acacia, 1990Ruumiskirstun arvoitus - cover Finnish edition Ruumiskirstun arvoitus - cover Finnish edition 1979Ztracená závěť - Cover Czech edition, Jan Nańka, Praha, 1934A 13-as számú ház - Cover Hungarian edition, Budapest 1943 תעלומת הרצח בגלריה - cover Hebrew edition, 1971
Тайна греческого гроба - Cover Russian edition 1993Тайна греческого гроба - Cover Russian editionГрозящая беда - Cover Russian edition, 2005 (includes The Devil to Pay)The Greek Coffin Mystery - Japanese editionThe Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo SogenshaThe Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Japanese edition
The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Poplar, Oct 1990. Edition aimed at young girls. Ellery is blue eyed and blonde!The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Japanese edition,1995 (1959)The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Jun 21. 2013,  illustration by TakenakaThe Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo Sogensha, 2014The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Chinese edition, Masses Press, April 1979The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Chinese edition, Masses Press, 1999
The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, June 2008The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, June 2008The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, Januari 2010The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, May 2011The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, May 2012The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, 2017
The Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Taiwanese editionThe Greek Coffin Mystery - cover Taiwanese edition, November 20. 2004그리스 관 미스터리(The Greek Coffin Mystery) - cover South-Korean edition, Sigma Books, Oct 1. 1994그리스 관 미스터리(The Greek Coffin Mystery) - cover Korean edition,  해문출판사 (Haemun Publishing), Nov 25. 2001그리스 관 미스터리(The Greek Coffin Mystery) - cover South-Korean edition, Dongsuh Mystery Books, 검은숲, Jun 1. 2003그리스 관 미스터리(The Greek Coffin Mystery) - cover South-Korean edition,  검은숲, Ellery Queen Collection, Jan 25. 2012

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