Siamese Twin Mystery (1933)
A forest fire
which hems in a mountain-top mansion on every side and creeps gradually closer and closer
is a sinister background for the equally sinister tale of murder. It was murder with such
complicated and subtle clues that no one but Ellery Queen could have unraveled the tangled
web, and even he thought more than once that he held the end in his hands only to discover
that it was really a loose end. What was the mystery of the isolated mansion? Why had the famous
surgeon John Xavier, come there to live? Why was Marie Carreau, a society beauty
supposedly traveling in Europe, hiding in one of the rooms? What was the Thing which
Inspector Queen saw and could describe to his son only a giant crab? All the questions
puzzled Ellery even before the first murder - and then there was another one.
"Who the devil do you think you are anyway?" Mark Xavier shouted. Ellery's father took a worn black case from his pocket and snapped the lid open. Inside lay a round embossed gold shield. "Inspector Queen of the Homicide Squad, New York City Police Department", he said. "I'm sorry I didn't announce last night that I'm a copper. "Because if I had, I'm certain that Dr. John Xavier would be alive this morning. And it's too damned beautiful a morning to be dead in."
We've got to get under cover," Ellery Queen
insisted. "The house is burning now.... The cellar -- where's the cellar? Lord, what
unmitigated idiots! Talk, will you, somebody?"
"Mr. Queen handles his story elements-the growth of fear, the interplay of emotion, the delineation of common people helpless before an uncommon situation-equally as superbly as he does his mystery and detective elements, in the concoction and treatment of which he is a past master."
"Here is a thriller and no mistake." -- Will Cuppy, New York Herald-Tribune
|Above: The first books published sometimes had identical front covers. The spine of the books/dust cover only differ in the publisher's logo. Top row left to right: Both dust cover and hard cover for Stokes, Grosset & Dunlap & Triangle Books edition. Bottom row left to right: Another hard cover variation for the Triangle Books edition, dust cover and hard cover for the Center Books edition and finally dustcover & two hard covers for World Publishing Company, Tower Books edition (Click on the covers to see the differences) *|
|The Bulletin (Australia),
Jan 24, 1934
"The weakness of practically all American thrillers is stridency, a tendency to overstate everything. Ellery Queen's 'The Siamese Twin Mystery' is another of them. The characters shout at one another like lunatics, tremble, turn pale, 'sway with disbelief, nausea, mounting rage,' sit rigid, 'stand glaring with awful triumph like mythological figures of vengeance,' and so on. The reader longs for the disciplined restraint of the policemen in an English thriller as he considers the hysterical reaction of Inspector Queen to the loss of his ring.
'By God, I'll have the eye-teeth of the so-and-so who stole it... I'm going to search everyone down to their skins.'
The plot is ingenious and there is an exciting finish."
|Something a little different for the Queens, with a remote house, raging forest fire and peculiar characters. Although some typical characteristics remain as (e.g. a map is provided) some aspects illustrate the change in the Queen approach to the story. The increasing departure from the fair play-rules of "The Golden Age" as the final solution depends a little to much on guesswork than deduction. The characters taking some of the time away from the otherwise slightly straightforward plot and the telltale absence of the "Challenge to the Reader". The second time after The Tragedy of X (1931) the Queen hallmark of the "dying clue" was introduced.|
The story is set two days from N.Y. on
Arrow mountain (close to the
Tomahawk valley in the Tepee mountains). Quiet accurately put at the 60th km on
Tuckesas to Osquewa (which was 80 km in total).The Queens are
returning from holiday in
Canada in the Duesenberg which plays a major role at
the beginning of the story.
Dr.Xavier is poisoned. When the victim has diabetes rigor mortis sets almost immediately, EQ had encountered this once before (The Egyptian Cross ?)
Often some new discoveries are featured in Queen books here a new medication is mentioned: alpha-lobeline.
Ellery remarked that the etching on the wall was etched after the "grisly" Rembrandt painting The Anatomy Lesson.
Ellery's mother is mentioned. Not so long ago he was in Florence were he bought a ring. He still wears a lorgnette and smokes cigarettes.
Richard is close to sixty, uses his snuffbox and wears a cheap wedding ring.
Jeffersonian, January 26. 1934
No masterpiece of author great
Do I review today,
But views about a humbler work
Would I to you convey.
A type condemned by critics as
Not even literature,
Detective stories ne'ertheless
Contain for all a lure
This book by noted Ellery Queen,
The Siamese Twin Myst'ry,
As it is called, is one that should
Be Read exstatic'ly
Consisting of macabre scenes,
Laid on a mountain-top
Ringed 'round by flame, the characters
Have forced on them a cop.
Inspector Queen is the cop's name,
And with him, his son El--
These two become enamored with
The eyrie's weird spell.
Two doctors there are seeking rest
At least ostensibly,
While various house-guests of the plot,
Do make a mystery.
One of the elite upper set
Seeks also refuge there,
While her offspring, "Siamese" from birth,
Do complicate the air.
Two of the household are "knocked off,"
Then come the climax high.
Though staged below, hemmed in by fire,
The actors do not fry.
If this you cannot quite make out
And read the meaning clear,
I would suggest you get the book
Your lonely hours to cheer.
- Ed Roper.
left: Philadelphia Record Book Club section from 1937
Above right: 40th edition from the French magazine Yard (June 1952) featured Le Mystère des Frères Siamois de Ellery Queen.
Other articles on this book
(1) Solve-Along #3 Rich McD (May 2012)
(2) Reading Ellery Queen Jon Mathewson (Jan 2014)
(3) The Queen's Tale Ho-Ling (May 15. 2013)
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