1949-1952 ELLERY QUEEN
of Many Tails (1949)
The silent rush of footsteps, the muffled shriek, the ever-tightening noose of exotic silk...the mark of the Cat. The Cat had claimed Number Nine. The Cat had 9 kills, but Ellery Queen found Number Ten alive, and offered the victim temptingly to the killer. The trap was baited, and Ellery and the police poised for the strike that had to come. But the strangler struck elsewhere. Queen's heart chilled at the thought of what he would find.
A departure for EQ: more of a manhunt than a mystery, although with a neat twist. And there's that extraordinary sequence with Ellery and the psychiatrist. TV-Movie (simplified): "Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You."
Ellery returned to Wrightsville to solve the mystery of: A rich man (believed poor) who died of "old age." A poor man (believed rich) who committed suicide. A scholarly drunk who disappeared. And shortly it occurred to Queen that the puzzle had a pattern. A twisted mind was committing murder according to an old nursery rhyme! Doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief...and to at least one person in town, the chief was Ellery Queen!
The last full-fledged Wrightsville story is as usual strong on characterizations. But some of the deductions made from the clues seem more speculative than logical.
Origin of Evil (1951)
Ellery was sun-bathing in the doorway of his Hollywood bedroom when the pretty young girl appeared. "I don't think there's anything funny in a dead dog, do you?" she asked. "Dogs die all the time," Ellery said. The girl stared down at her cigarette. "He was a gift, and it killed my father." "How exactly did a dead dog 'kill' your father?" "It murdered him."
Another Hollywood tale, but without the familiar characters from the previous stories. Here's one of EQ's twistiest scenarios in a long time, with that familiar solution that isn't a solution a stunner.
In the merry month of May, Ellery made a trek to Gettysburg to witness an annual celebration--and an annual murder. February found the ingenious Ellery locked in a furious battle of wits with a dead US President. These are but two of the 12 appointments with crime that make up Queen's baffling calendar of conundrums. Each elegant enigma ticks off all the surprise and excitement that have made Queen the dean of American detective fiction.
Extremely clever tales all involving time in some way. Nikki Porter figures in every story. Two of the entries, however, have virtually the same twist ending.
King is Dead (1952)
Ellery's job was to keep a powerful tycoon from being murdered. The task looked simple. But here was a case where the perfect detective came face to face with a killer how had contrived the perfect crime! For how could King Bendigo, closely guarded behind steel doors, be shot by Judah, who was being watched by Ellery in another room? Queen was royally stumped and knew he had to think fast--before the Bendigo court really lost its head!
EQ takes on a political overtone here, and there's even a one-chapter trip back to Wrightsville for nostalgia. But there isn't too much mystery about whodunit--it's more a question of howdidhedoit.