The discerning reader
will recall that the two cousins who wrote as Ellery Queen published
five short stories about the Puzzle Club and its newest member, Ellery
Queen himself, in the 1960s and '70s. Fifty years later, Josh Pachter
picked up the gauntlet and gave us five more tales of the Puzzle Club,
each as baffling as the original five, each with an introduction by a
family member, friend, or aficionado of Mr. Queen.
Available in paperback, e-formats, and in a beautiful hardcover edition signed by Richard Dannay, Rand B. Lee, and Josh himself. With introductions by Martin Edwards, Joseph Goodrich, Dale C. Andrews, Kurt Sercu, Janet Hutchings, Jon L. Breen, Mike Nevins, Arthur Vidro, Jeffrey Marks and Richard Dannay.
began work on Misadventures
(2017), he re-read The
Tragedy of Errors and got inspired when he found
three cases for something Ellery Queen
called "The Puzzle Club".
There were five Puzzle Club stories in all. The three collected in Tragedy of Errors were first published in 1971, “The Three Students” and “The Odd Man” in Playboy and “The Honest Swindler” in The Saturday Evening Post. (The other two were older, first published in 1965 — “The Little Spy” in Cavalier and “The President Regrets” in Diners’ Club Magazine — and reprinted in 1968 in Q.E.D.: Queen’s Experiments in Detection.)
The central concept of the five-story EQ miniseries — which Isaac Asimov later co-opted for his much longer run of Black Widowers stories — was that six friends gathered at irregular intervals for a gourmet dinner, but before sitting down to eat one member of the group was ensconced in what was called “The Puzzle Chair,” and the other five presented an invented mystery for the evening’s designated solver to tackle.
The group consisted of Syres (a wealthy oilman, whose Park Avenue penthouse was the setting for the club’s meetings), Darnell (a criminal attorney, known as “the rich man’s Clarence Darrow”), Dr. Vreeland (a noted psychiatrist), Emmy Wandermere (the Pulitzer Prize winning poet), Dr. Arkavy (the Nobel-winning biochemist) … and, of course, Ellery Queen (the famous novelist and sleuth). The five stories share several common elements: Dr. Arkavy is always absent (off lecturing at an assortment of international conferences and symposia), it’s always Ellery’s turn to sit in the Puzzle Chair, and each story is interrupted by the classic Queen “Challenge to the Reader,” in which we mere mortals are given the opportunity to match our wits with Ellery’s.
"My first thought was to pick up where Dannay and Lee left off and set my own Puzzle Club story in 1972. But at the same time I was working on this story, I was also writing one to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the appearance of my own first contribution to EQMM, in which the protagonist of my first story is now fifty years older and challenged by the memory of a murder he failed to solve fifty years previously.
With that in mind, I decided to set my Puzzle Club story in the present day, too, making the regular characters fifty years older than they were when last we saw them. And I also decided that it was about time Dr. Arkavy put in an appearance."
His idea for a brief puzzle story seemed well suited for the Puzzle Club, so he wrote it up, titled it “A Study in Scarlett!” and submitted it to EQMM. Janet Hutchings liked it, got approval by the Dannay and Lee heirs and it appeared in EQMM’s May/June 2019 issue.
Enjoying the experience Josh set out to write four more Puzzle Club pastiches, and then after they’d all been published in EQMM, intends collecting the original five and his new five in a single volume: The Puzzle Club, by Ellery Queen and Josh Pachter. Janet liked the idea in principle, and Richard Dannay, who represents the heirs, was enthusiastic.
Since the first Puzzle Club story’s title is a Sherlock Holmes pun (on A Study in Scarlet), he thought it might be fun to use Holmesian puns for the subsequent stories in the series — and, since the first one puns on a Holmes title that involves a color, I thought it might be extra fun to continue in that vein.
His second Puzzle Club story, in the January/February 2020 issue of EQMM, is called “The Adventure of the Red Circles” (punning on “The Adventure of the Red Circle”), and the third, “The Adventure of the Black-and-Blue Carbuncle” (from “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”)appeared in November/December 2020 issue .
Unsure what to call the fourth one, several other Sherlockian color titles came to mind (“The Five Orange Pips,” “The Adventure of the Yellow Face,” and “The Adventure of Black Peter.”) Josh finally settled on "The Five Orange Pipes" (EQMM Jan/Feb 2021). For the fifth, he is going to use one more Sherlock Holmes pun, but this time without a color. In 1917, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a Holmes story called “His Last Bow,” and Josh plans to call this Puzzle Club story “Their Last Bow.”
In this final pastiche, he wants to make it impossible for anyone ever to write another one. "No, I’m not going to kill Ellery — I wouldn’t want to have his death on my conscience, and the heirs and Janet would never let me do it, even if I did want to. But something’s going to happen that will bring the series to a logical and inevitable conclusion." (4)
Other articles on this book
(1) Crime Solving with Canapes (Ah Sweet Mystery) Brad (Dec 15.2022)
(2) Cover Reveal – The Adventures of the Puzzle Club Kristopher (Oct 17. 2022)
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