Cape Mystery (1935)
Memo from Ellery Queen
1. Why was John Marco at Spanish Cape?
The were the questions Ellery Queen asked when he found John Marco's body. At first, the answers seemed simple. But Queen soon realized that no case in his brilliant career had prepared him for the shocking events that followed this horrible murder!
John Marco, handsome despoiler of women, is found
murdered on the beach of Spanish Cape. This piece of land and rock juts out into the
Atlantic like some sleeping monster. It is owned by an eccentric millionaire, Walter
Godfrey. At the time of Marco's death a number of ill-assorted people are visiting at
Spanish Cape. Marco seemed to have some kind of an evil hold over these desperate women.
But strangely enough, of all the people gathered there, his was the only face that did not
wear the tense mask of dread.
"The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) contains an ingenious solution. The strange facts about the corpse's nakedness parallels the book's predecessor, The Chinese Orange Mystery, and its reversal of everything about its corpse and crime scene. The solution also shows EQ's admirable use of logic: once EQ figures out the method of the murder, he can deduce from it the identity of the murderer, in a way that seems paradigmatic for the use of deduction in the mystery. The Spanish Cape Mystery shares a family resemblance in its plotting to The Roman Hat Mystery (1929), "The African Traveler" (1934), parts of The Devil to Pay (1938), and "Mind Over Matter" (1939). However, the solution is fairly simple, the plot is not especially complex, and the body of the book is way over long for the substance of the plot. The whole thing would be much better as a short story.
The book shows EQ's ability to create a natural landscape, and integrate it into a story. It seems unusual for EQ, after the urban setting and delightful floor plans of so much of his fiction. "The Treasure Hunt" (1935) of the same year also has a dramatic, isolated natural location. Such lonely buildings in inaccessible settings are a tradition in 1930's mysteries. Several were made into movies, and the lonely mansion near the sea on a dark and stormy night is a staple of the 1930's Hollywood whodunit." (Michael E.Grost)
Ellery still smokes, wears his pince-nez and uses a knife. Djuna briefly appears and
his father is only referred to.
E(dward) Phillips Oppenheim, (1866 - 1946) the
prince of storytellers, wrote 115 books and 39 anthologies, and became famous with 'The
amazing quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss'.
b a c k t o Q B I
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