Halfway House, where a strange man finds final rest on his tortured journey through life . . . Halfway house, where, under the grim shadow of a sensational murder, opposites meet and clash -- common peddler and financier, young housewife and cold society woman, struggling lawyer and millionaire debutante... Halfway house, where Ellery Queen, crime consultant to the world-at-large, returns to his old love of pure and pungent deduction in what is unquestionably his most fascinating narrative of real people and subtle violence.
The victim had lived two lives, but a single
knife thrust ended both of them. The trail of suspicion led into the
guilt-edged world of the beautiful people—and climaxed in a vicious
courtroom battle that ended with a shattering verdict. It seemed that for
the first time Ellery had met his match—until the sleuth blended his usual
impeccable logic with a most unusual fling … .
Halfway House appeared in full in 1936's June edition of (Hearst's International) Cosmopolitan. Nash's Pall Magazine also owned by Hearst had published the story in 5 parts between May and September 1936.
In his foreword Ellery points out to JJMcC that the
book might have been called The Swedish Match Mystery but it was not. It did however
keep the subtitle of its predecessors ' a problem in deduction'.
The departure from the 'national' format was more than appropriate as it marks more
than one shift. Although Queen's earlier work had been published in so-called women's
slick magazines, it wasn't until Halfway House that it's influence
took hold of the writing. The stories evolved with a reduction in cast of
characters, a scaling down of the pure puzzle-element and a decline of the
fair play rules. Halfway House is
the last to contain the Queen "Challenge" which made him so distinct. (reappearing only in
The Finishing Stroke.) Although
being well conceived the puzzle is simpler, great attention is given to the trial of the
culprit and several human interest stories were mixed in with the mysteries. Probably
because it was his first step after his "Golden Age" period it still stands as one of the
better stories of the time.
The finale depends on one strand in EQ's writing. Various clues to the
killer's identity left at the crime scene are developed by EQ into a profile of the
potential killer. Then EQ goes through the list of characters in the story, showing how
this profile fits one and only one of the suspects. It is similar to the deductions from
the shoe in The Dutch Shoe Mystery.
Fans of physical detection might enjoy this, and the book follows in a
honorable tradition of "deduction through clues" in the detective story. But
it seems very mild compared to EQ's best work. There is no complex plot, no
wild crime schemes or final revelations. Some of Queen's logic is
interesting, especially his reasons for concluding one character is speaking
the truth. (Michael
Halfway House Translations:
Other articles on this book
(1) Reading Ellery Queen - Halfway House Jon Mathewson (Dec 2014)
(2) #446: Spoiler Warning 8 – Halfway House (1936) by Ellery Queen JJ at The Invisible Event (Oct 13, 2018)
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