1930-1932 ELLERY QUEEN
llery Queen started off with the first of the novels which
featured the great detective himself. It is generally
accepted that the first ten books formed the first period in the Queen saga. Some even include 'Halfway House' (aka 'The Swedish Match Mystery') or at least call it a transitional book.
Many feel they gave up the early format far to soon and choose to go 'Hollywood'. Only later to return into really bizarre situations. In these early stories Ellery seldom got something wrong. Both in form and content the books were carefully plotted. They were complex exercises in - plotting for its writers and - deduction for the readers. Clearly based on figures and format pioneered by S.S. Van Dine the books do vary in quality. An Ellery Queen book always offered something extra: a new topic in science,... or at least one new word in the English language.
In the end there is something 'grand' about a 'concept' series which actually does just what it was supposed to do. It sells, it makes readers want to know if the next book will be as good as the previous ...
It makes one wonder if there were not a few more 'Nationals' to go...
|he Roman Hat Mystery (1929)
The drama at the Roman theatre was the most popular show in town. It was called Gunplay and was filled with the violence and action and noises of gang warfare. Shortly after the curtain rose on Act II, there was a scream and the lights snapped on. Near an exit, a policeman stood holding a nervous man by the arm. When a squad of bluecoats marched down the aisle, pandemonium broke out. "Looks like this man's been murdered, Sergeant."
The first EQ mystery, it resulted from a contest and emerged the first-prize winner. Clever plot development, but with several points too difficult to swallow. EQ is rather a stuffed shirt.
French's department store was famous for the merchandise it offered its elite clientele. But no one in the store could be proud of its latest window-display: the blood-stained corpse of the owner's wife. Ellery Queen soon discovered that this palace of commerce was a viper's nest of fear, jealousy, suspicion, and hatred. And baffling him at every turn was a mastermind who was out to turn the store into a bargain basement of murder.
Better than its predecessor, the logic follows more clearly and the plot is even more deliciously twisted. EQ himself is still rather stuck up and more than a bit conceited.
|he Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931)
Rigor Mortis had set it before Abigail Doorn is wheeled into the operating room of the Dutch Memorial Hospital. It is clearly a case of preoperative strangulation with a picture hanger, by a killer who couldn't wait... Now it's up to Ellery Queen--and you--to solve the Dutch Shoe Mystery. It's ingenious, it's devilish, it's sinister, but if you're a real mystery addict it's just what you've been looking for. So go home, turn the lights down, and...
Of all the EQs, this is one of the most carefully constructed: the clues lead simply and inevitably to the stated conclusion, and no mystery writer has ever played more fairly.
Someone was playing nasty tricks on Ellery Queen. Every clue the famed sleuth followed led him further into a crazy-house maze of multiplying suspects and proliferating possibilities. All Ellery Queen knew for sure was that an eminent art dealer was dead, a brilliant forger had been slain, a priceless painting had been stolen, a mysterious will had disappeared, and a ruthless killer was ready to strike again.
The most confounding, brilliantly plotted EQ of them all. More twists and turns than the Mississippi River. EQ's first recorded investigation is a high point in the detective literature, and our favorite of all the novels. Read it!
|he Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932)
The island was a magnet for every seeker of kinky kicks. A weird prophet had made it the home of a new religion--one that worshiped the sun, called clothing a crime, and recognized no vice save that of inhibition. Residents said it was a shame and a scandal. But soon it was more than that. Kooks were one thing, but corpses were another--and Ellery arrived in nudist land to find that everything was in easy view except one fiendish killer.
Another masterfully constructed series of clues, although here one or two ideas that have been used since by lesser writers will be familiar and possibly guessed by the astute reader.