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previous indepth review... The Tragedy of X  (1932) next indepth review...

Let the unknown = X! A crowded street car! A man is murdered! Everyone saw him die, but no one saw the killer! Many people (even his own partner) had good reason to hate Longstreet. Inspector Thumm's few clues all led up a blind alley. He finally sought the aid of Drury Lane, retired Shakespearean actor, who made a hobby of solving crimes. Seated amid the splendor of the vast medieval halls of his castle on the Hudson, Drury Lane hears the story from the Inspector. He knows who the murderer is, but refuses to reveal his identity until he has sufficient evidence for the police to arrest him. This story is crammed full of chilling thrills! Why was the streetcar conductor murdered? Why won't Longstreet's partner talk? The answers to these questions and others all lead to the solution of this puzzling mystery.
New York City, the early 30's. A man is poisoned on a crowded streetcar during rush hour. Everyone saw him die, but no one saw the killer! And far too many people had good reason to hate Longstreet. The few clues lead up to a blind alley, and District Attorney Bruno and Inspector Thumm pay a call on Drury Lane.
Drury Lane! Retired Shakespearean actor. Matinee idol. Master of disguise. Amateur sleuth who finds "crime the highest refinement of human drama." Ellery Queen's most flamboyant creation.
Seated amid the splendor of the vast medieval halls of his castle on the Hudson, Drury Lane hears the story. Almost at once, he knows who the murderer is, but refuses to reveal his identity until he has sufficient evidence for the police to arrest him.
In the great tradition, all the clues are scrupulously presented to you, the reader. Can you solve the case before the police?

 
"Unquestionably a superior piece of work in the mystery field, literate and intelligent, its puzzle slyly hidden, and its occasional references to things of the theater adding interest and novelty... he has a remarkable grasp of the technique." -- Earl Derr Biggers.

"The best mystery story we have read in many a day... the book carries on its enthralling plot in a pleasant, a vigorous style."
-- Providence Journal.

"Unreservedly we recommend The Tragedy of X. A mystery that will defy the most astute." -- Philadelphia Inquirer.

"One of the pleasantest excuses that can be found for missing sleep these nights is The Tragedy of X." --  John Mason Brown, N.Y. Evening Post

"The Viking Press has made no mistake in choosing this book as its first venture into the mystery field." --  Isaac Anderson,  New York Times.

"Drury Lane, detective in his spare time because nothing is more dramatic than real life, is called in. With much pesturing and gesturing, he solves the mystery in a manner that baffles sleuths and book reviewers." -- 
Gremin Zorn, Long Island Sunday Press
 
The Tragedy of X - dust cover Viking Press edition, January 1932The Tragedy of X - hard cover Viking Press edition, January 1932 (first en second edition March 1932)The Tragedy of X - hard cover Grosset & Dunlap edition, New York (early reprint), no mention of Ellery Queen on hard cover, October 1933The Tragedy of X - hard cover Grosset & Dunlap edition, New York (early reprint), no mention of Ellery Queen on hard cover, October 1933
The Tragedy of X - cover Grosset & Dunlap edition (Frederick A. Stokes Company) Inc., 1940. "For Victory, Buy United States War Bonds and Stamps" - This book was produced under wartime conditions, in full compliance with government regulations for the conservation of paper and other essential materials.The Tragedy of X - hard cover Grosset & Dunlap edition, New York (variation)The Tragedy of X - hard cover Grosset & Dunlap edition, New York, 1940  (variation)
The Tragedy of X - dust cover Stokes edition, January 1940The Tragedy of X - hard cover Stokes edition, January 1940
Top row left to right: Both dust cover and hard cover for Viking Press, dust and hard cover for Grosset & Dunlap.
Bottom row left to right: two more hard cover variations for for Grosset & Dunlap,  dust cover and hard cover for Stokes. (Click on the covers to see the differences) *
 
The Saturday Review, "Thrillers" by William C. Weber - June 18, 1932

"Preposterous is also the word to describe Drury Lane, the trick criminal investigator who gyrates through the pages of an otherwise excellent mystery story, "The Mystery (sic) of X" by Barnaby Ross. It, too, runs to long words and subtle deductions but is chockfull of action and has a surprising denouement which nobody under the sun will ever believe."


The Daily Star
, Long Island City, Queens Borough, N.Y. , "All about Books" by Victor Ullman, March 31. 1932

"Having read but one or two detective stories I cannot judge whether "The Tragedy of X, a Drury Lane Mystery," by Barnaby Ross, is the remarkable thing the people at Viking Press say it is, Mr. Charles Reed Jones will deal with the book in "It's a Crime" and we can depend on his judgment. But Viking says that the editors waited seven years for this story, and I can well believe it after seeing the list of rules laid down for judging a mystery. "The Tragedy of X" becomes doubly important, really an event, for, in fact, with those rules they might have waited many a lifetime before publishing a mystery. Here are a few of them:

I. No Malay krisses, sliding panels, (Fu (if any) Manchus, walking corpses or other devices of the un-sound-and-fury school of writers.
II. No new characters dragged in by the hair just before the fall of the curtain simply in order to pin the crime on him or her.
III. No screamingly funny characters — even if they were funny we wouldn't like them in a detective story.

I, in my ignorance, wonder just what the Viking editors have left for a mystery writer to write about."

 
The Tragedy of X - cover pocket book edition, No. 125. Pocket Book Edition October 1941.The Tragedy of X - cover Readers' League of America reprint 1942The Tragedy of X - cover AvonThe Tragedy of X - cover pocket book edition, Avon, New York, 1952.The Tragedy of X - cover pocket book edition, Avon, S206, January 1966
First appearance of Drury Lane himself, his associates, and his gift for disguise (Arsène Lupin comes close) . Drury Lane, admittedly greater than life, is well delineated, as well as his supporting cast and his ambience as the best parts of this book concern these characters. It may not be as well known as the Queen books featuring Ellery Queen. Fetching backgrounds (New York circa 1932), a  nasty murder method, and a dandy sleuth: retired Shakespearean actor Drury Lane. Michael E. Grost remarks that his estate on the Hudson shows Ellery Queen's interest in design, just like the references to Art Deco in The French Powder Mystery. 
 Artwork for The Tragedy of "X" by Ellery Queen (Chapter 10) as published on December 11, 1941 in The Newark Courier-Gazette and Marion Enterprise. It reads: "Fern DeWitt turned to leave the room. The detective barred her way. "A couple of questions first, Mrs. DeWitt." 
Above: Artwork for The Tragedy of "X" by Ellery Queen (Chapter 10) as published on December 11, 1941 in The Newark Courier-Gazette and Marion Enterprise. It reads: "Fern DeWitt turned to leave the room. The detective barred her way. "A couple of questions first, Mrs. DeWitt."
The plot deals with three murders committed on transport (e.g. trams,  ferries and trains), with the murders themselves being peculiarly nasty (the first murder shows some of EQ's gift for surrealistic mise-en-scène as it is committed by means of a nicotine-tipped-needle-filled cork ball put into the victim's pocket), including Ellery Queen's first "dying message" (the second would appear in The Siamese Twin Mystery) - and the ingenious. The finale is deductive, as in all of the early EQ books, but the solution is somewhat far fetched, and the mystery plot is not especially imaginative. It shows similarities to both Conan Doyle's  A Study in Scarlet and one of the stories from G. K. Chesterton's The Innocence of Father Brown. 
The Tragedy of X - cover English edition Cassell (UK),  first printing, 1932The Tragedy of X - cover paperback edition, The Albatross, 1932 (no large version available)Tragedy of X - dust cover publication University Extension, University of California, San Diego in cooperation with Publisher's Inc.,  Mystery Library series No. 7, 1978. (Illustrator Joyce Kitchell)Tragedy of X - hardcover publication University Extension, University of California, San Diego in cooperation with Publisher's Inc.,  Mystery Library series No. 7, 1978.
The Tragedy of X - cover International Polygonics, Ltd.,1986-1987, art by QuayThe Tragedy of X - cover MysteriousPress.com/Open Road, July 28, 2015The Tragedy of X - cover audiobook Blackstone Audio, Inc., read by Mark Peckham, September 1. 2014 
 
The Daily Star, Long Island City, Queens Borough, N.Y. , "It's A Crime" by Charles Reed Jones, (Flushing Author of Mystery Novels), March 31. 1932

"Drury Lane, who makes his debut as a detective in "The Tragedy of X," was a greater Hamlet than Edwin Booth before his retirement in 1928 because of deafness. He lives today at his vast estate, The Hamlet, overlooking the Hudson River at Westchester County.

He has quit the stage, except for his annual performance of "Hamlet" at his own private theater on April 23, which the author reminds us is "the commonly accepted anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and death."

But, although he has retired from the professional theater, Drury Lane continues to perform before a limited audience of his 'own choosing; his servants who are named for several Shakespearean characters, and New York's District Attorney, whom he will entertain in "The Tragedy of Y" and "The Tragedy of Z," which will be published subsequently.

Harley Longstreet, a middle-aged broker, had announced his engagement to Cherry Browne, musical comedy star. Accompanied by a group of friends, they boarded a West Forty-second streetcar.

Settled in the crowded car, Long street reached into his pocket for his spectacles. He withdrew his hand suddenly, covered with blood, and fell to the floor, dead.

Every member of the party seemed to have had a motive for the murder, although the ingenuity of the murder device seemed to place a definite limit on the search. The story moves rapidly and reasonably through two subsequent murders, quite as harrowing and confusing as the first; but it falls down miserably in the most absurdly artificial solution I have run across in many, many years of detective-story reading. There is one thing you may definitely depend upon: You will never guess the answer.

I might have smiled a little rather early in the book when Drury Lane, a la Sherlock Holmes, decided to try his well-practiced hand at disguises; but I was ready to swear when I learned that, the murderer had been running in and out of the picture with a series of such perfect disguises that neither the great Drury Lane nor the murderer's closest buddies were able to penetrate them."

 
             The Tragedy of X - Cover for section included in  "The Philadelphia Inquirer" May 24. 1941. Illustrated throughout by W. V. Chambers.In the winter of 1933-1934 "Mystery magazine" published a winter number. As it contained three full novels it was named "Mystery Novels Magazine". One of those three was 'Master Detective Writer" Barnaby Ross' "The Tragedy of X".
Above left: Cover for section included in  The Philadelphia Inquirer May 24. 1941. Illustrated throughout by W. V. Chambers.
Above right: In the winter of 1933-1934
Mystery magazine published a winter number. As it contained three full novels it was named Mystery Novels Magazine. One of those three was 'Master Detective Writer" Barnaby Ross' The Tragedy of X.

 


Het X-mysterie - coverLa tragédie de X - cover French edition Collection Détective, Gallimard - 1934La tragédie de X - cover French edition Editions Denoël Oscar N°28, 1954Die Zange - cover German edition, Band 2078 der Reihe "Goldmanns Detektiv-Romane, Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Leipzig, 1935Die Zange - dust cover German edition Goldmann Bd. K 55Die Zange - hardcover German edition, Leipzig Wilhem Goldmann, Goldmanns Detektivromane, Originalleinen, 1935La tragedia di X - cover Italian edition, Giallo Mondadori N° 60, 1949
La tragedia di X - cover Italian edition, Giallo Mondadori N° 44, 1956La tragedia di X - cover Italian edtion, editions Mondadori, series ' I Classici del Giallo' N°5, 1967La Tragedia Di X - cover Italian edition, Collana I Classici del Giallo N° 588, 1989La Tragedia Di X - cover Italian edition, Oscar Mondarori, June 2011X, O Simbolo fatal - cover Portuguese edition, Edições MM, Brazil, 1974A tragédia de X - cover Portuguese edition, Coleçao Amerela, Editora Globo, Brazil, 1951

The Tragedy of X Translations: 
Chinese: X的悲劇 (X de bei ji) 
Danish: Hvem er X? 
Estonian: Müstiline X 
Dutch/Flemish: Het X-mysterie 
French: La tragédie de X 
German: Die Zange 
Italian: La tragedia di X 
Japanese:  Xの悲劇 (X no higeki)
Korean: 드루리 레인 X의 비극
 
Portuguese: A tragédia de X (aka X, O Simbolo fatal) 
Russian: Трагедия Икс 
Spanish: La tragedia de X 
Swedish: X-tragedin 
Turkish: Ölüm Otobüsü
 
Vietnamese: Tấn bi kịch X 

A tragédia de X - cover Portuguese edition, Livros de Bolso, Rio de Janeiro, 1962A tragédia de X - cover Portuguese edition Livros do Brasil, Vampiro Nr 54, Lisbon, 1990La tragedia de X - cover Spanish edition, Biblioteca Oro Nº 62, ed. Molino, Barcelona, 1935La tragedia de X - cover Spanish edition, Ediciones Picazo, 1975La tragedia de X - cover Spanish edition, 1986, Ed. Planeta, BarcelonaX-tragedin - cover Swedish edition
Hvem er X? - Cover Danish edition, 1946Hvem er X? - Cover Danish edition, LommeromanenHvem er X? - Cover Danish edition, Lademann, København. Printed in Belgium, 1974Müstiline X - dust and hardcover Estonian edition, Tallinn, Kriminalromaan nr.13  Loodus, 1938Müstiline X - cover Estonian edition, Kuldsulg, 1994Ölüm Otobüsü - cover Turkish edition, 1979
Трагедия Икс - Cover Russian edition, 2007 (also contains some stories from Queens Full)드루리 레인 X의 비극 (The Tragedy of X) - cover Korean edition, 시그마 북스 (Sigma Books), Nov 1. 1994드루리 레인 X의 비극 (The Tragedy of X) - cover Korean edition,  동서문화동판(Dongsuh Mystery Books), Jan 1. 2003드루리 레인 X의 비극 (The Tragedy of X) - cover Korean edition, 정태원 | 국일미디어 (De Jung, Zhou Media), Jul 15. 2003드루리 레인 X의 비극 (The Tragedy of X) -  cover South-Korean edition,  검은숲, The Ellery Queen Collection, May 14. 2013The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Arakisha Publishing, Black Book Selection, 1950
The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo Sogensha paperback, 19?? (77th Edition 1983)The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, "Junior High School", March 1963The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Somoto reasoning paperback, October 1970The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Kadokawa Bunko The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Hayakawa Pocket Mystery BookThe Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Shinchosha Publisher, 80s
The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Hayakawa Bunko, October 26. 2012The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese editionThe Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Poplar paperback, Mystery Box, 2004The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Hayakawa PublishingXの悲劇 (The Tragedy of X) - cover Japanese edition, Kadokawa Bunko, 2009
The Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo SogenshaThe Tragedy of X - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo Sogensha Somoto Reasoning Paperbacks, April 2019Xの悲劇  - cover Japanese edition, Kodansha Bunko, 2021The Tragedy of X - cover Taiwanese edition, Face Press, August 1995X的悲劇 - The Tragedy of X - cover Taiwanese edition, Dec 1995
The Tragedy of X, The Tragedy of Y - cover Chinese edition, Masses Press, August 2000The Tragedy of X - cover Chinese edition, Adventure Press, August 2002The Tragedy of X - cover Chinese edition, Xinjiang People's Publishing House, 2004The Tragedy of X - cover Chinese edition,  New Star Press, 2009The Tragedy of X - cover Chinese edition,  New Star Press, January 2010
The Tragedy of X - cover Chinese edition,  New Star Press, May 2011The Tragedy of X - cover Chinese edition,  New Star Press, Jan 2017The Tragedy of X - cover Chinese editionThe Tragedy of X - cover Chinese editionTấn bi kịch X - cover Vietnamese edition of  'The Tragedy of X", Văn học editions, 2016
 


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Other articles on this book

(1)
The Green Capsule – The Tragedy of X  Noah Stewart (Oct 2017)
(2) Reading Ellery Queen - The Tragedy of X Jon Mathewson (Jun 2013)
(3) Deus Ex Machina Ho-Ling (Feb 2016)
(4) The Tragedy of Zzzzzzz Brad Friedman (Oct 23. 2018)
(5) #917: Mining Mount TBR at The Invisible Event (May 31. 2022)
 
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