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 … .
murder mystery solved by a paper packet of matches."
The New York Post.
"It is a straight-out murder mystery with no fancy trimmings, in which Ellery Queen tantalizes and challenges the deductive powers of the reader with his usual fascinating method of analysis and his own attractiveness." -- Margaret Germond, The Evening Star, Washington D.C.
Above left to right: Both
dust cover and hard cover for Stokes and Grosset & Dunlap; dust cover
Below left tor right: Three hard cover variations for Triangle Books; dust and hard cover for Tower (World Publishing co.) *
|San Pedro News,
"Life, Literature - New Mystery Holds Thrills" by William Lyon Phelps , August 14. 1936
"One of our best writers of murder mystery books calls himself Ellery Queen, and so far as I know, that is what his father and mother called him. A few years ago he captured the public with an ingenious and exciting thriller —speedily followed with eight others. These nine books all end their titles with the word mystery “The Roman Hat Mystery,” “The Siamese Twin Mystery,” “The Greek Coffin Mystery,” etc. They are well written, they are studded with interesting quotations from classic literature, which will please those who recognize them, and will not annoy those who don’t. I have enjoyed all these books. Ellery Queen and his father are a remarkable pair of sleuths. But now and all of a sudden Ellery Queen has beaten his greatest rival—himself, his own past; the most cruel and uncompromising competitor any artist has to fight. His new story, with its entirely different and unexpected title, “Halfway House” (and the unexpected change from the titles of the nine previous books is discussed in a Foreword) is a whole class ahead of the nine. This novel has not a dull page, paragraph, or sentence; it is both ripping and gripping. My attention was seized by the first page; partly, I admit, by my intimate topographical familiarity with the scene—Trenton, but any other town with the same story would have done well enough. The persons in this drama are divided into three groups—the New Yorkers, the Philadelphians, the Trentonians. I don’t know why the author made his most offensive character a polo player. I don’t play polo, because I can’t ride a horse; but every polo player I have ever known, and I know many of them intimately, are all exceedingly attractive. However, that’s a small matter; in a murder story, anything can happen. I suppose other readers do not share my dislike of another feature, which this novel has in common with many other thrillers; I suppose so, because if they did, the writers and publishers would not make use of it. On page 252 the reader is challenged. He is told that all the elements of the plot are now before him, and he is invited to work his brain and see if he can solve the problem. This always irritates me. I read murder stories for pure diversion and for nothing else. I would no more waste my time in trying to guess their solutions than I would do anything else that was unpleasant and futile."
|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 E.Grost)
On April 27, 1937 a magazine reported the acquisition by M-G-M of Halfway House, mystery novel by Ellery Queen. However, to our knowledge this novel was never converted into a movie.
|The Rhinebeck Gazette,
Rhinebeck, N.Y., August 14. 1936
"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- to date — a modern Tale of Two Cities by the master mystery teller."
The Mercury Week-end Magazine Section September 19. 1936 - "Book Reviews Half-Way House, by Ellery Queen" by "Scribe"
"I suppose everyone by this time knows the Ellery Queen mystery stories. Any one who does not can make a good start by reading "Half-Way House" and then going backwards through to rest. For I think that having read this one the reader is pretty certain to want to try the others. "Half-Way House" really begins when Bill Angel in his Pontiac coupe acting on certain instructions, halts at a lonely building outside New York, to meet his brother-in-law. And while he waits a woman's shriek startles him, followed by her appearance rushing from the building to jump into a magnificent car and drive away at furious speed. Bill then enters the house to find his brother-in-law on the floor dying from a stab in the chest. This is merely the setting for a very skillfully traced crime, the doer of which is hidden till almost the end. There are not many writers who can more success fully work up interest In the actual tracking of crime and maintain it through some 320 pages or so. It is in this direction that Mr. Ellery Queen has made his name and fame and each book that he writes comes with the same impact of skill and clever reasoning."
|Above: Cover and page in the magazine Cosmopolitan June 1936, first publication of this story.
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)
(3) "Ellery Queen and The Mystery of the Hidden Name” Dale C. Andrews
(and Kurt Sercu)
(4) Halfway House - Suddenly at his Residence (Oct 12. 2018)
(5) Reviews in verse Halfway House The Bunburyist by Elizabeth Foxwell (Jan. 8. 2020)
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