Ellery Queen

The Roman Hat Mystery
1929
The drama at the Roman theatre was the most popular show in town that season. 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 a closed exit, a large policeman stood holding a slight, 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 was named the first-prize winner (though a change in sponsorship led them to award the prize to someone else). Clever plot development, but with several points too difficult to swallow. EQ is rather a stuffed shirt.

The French Powder Mystery
1930
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 mysterious 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.

The 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. Movie (greatly altered): EQ and the Murder Ring.

The Greek Coffin Mystery
1932
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!

The 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. Old-time 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 Queen 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 may be familiar and possibly guessed by the astute reader.

The American Gun Mystery
1933
Buck Horne was shot down in front of 20,000 fans awaiting his comeback in the world's largest rodeo. Ellery Queen was in the audience. But after a month of investigation the brilliant detective was as baffled as everyone else. There was no motive and no murder weapon. So the rodeo reopened with the death unsolved...and then another man died in precisely the same manner as Buck Horne...and again there was no motive or murder weapon!

A good idea, but too clever for its own good. The basic premise is difficult to swallow, and the method by which the gun was disposed of really taxes credibility.

The Siamese Twin Mystery
1933
When a raging forest fire drives Ellery Queen and his father to seek refuge up a mountain road, they are offered shelter by the mysterious Dr. Xavier. But their host is later murdered, and the Queens are imprisoned in the forbidding house along with several suspects. Then there is a second killing... Cages full of freak animals, a kleptomaniac who can't resist rings, half a six of spades, and a pair of Siamese twins are among the more bizarre elements in this classic.

Something a little different for the Queens, with a remote house, raging forest fire, and peculiar characters taking some of the time away from the slightly straightforward plot.

The Chinese Orange Mystery
1934
There were many odd things about the fat man. No one had seen him enter the luxurious suite, and no one knew his name. Somehow all his clothes had been put on him backwards, and all the furniture around him reversed. The room in which he was found was locked from the inside, and aside from him, was empty. It was unlike any case Ellery Queen had ever seen—except for two hard facts. The man was dead. And it was his baffling job to find the murderer.

EQ's deductions, though arguable, are a bit difficult to follow, and his reconstruction hard to visualize. Cleverly worked out, though. Movie (more or less): The Mandarin Mystery.

The Adventures of Ellery Queen
1934
The Adventure of the African Traveler - The Adventure of the Hanging Acrobat - The Adventure of the One-Penny Black - The Adventure of the Bearded Lady - The Adventure of the Three Lame Men - The Adventure of the Invisible Lover - The Adventure of the Teakwood Case - The Adventure of 'The Two-Headed Dog' - The Adventure of the Glass-Domed Clock - The Adventure of the Seven Black Cats - The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party

A strange and frightening world...where the body won't stay put during a 'mad' party! Where a postage stamp delivers an addict, and a thief! Where a bowtie and a shirt are cremated after a murder! Where the corpse is in the closet, and the clothes are on the floor! This is the mysterious world of Ellery Queen. As always, he plays fair, sharing every clue; as always, the solution is both surprising and logical; as always, the action and mystery are irresistible.

A collection of short stories that lack the depth of the novels (of course) but delightful nonetheless. The best of them: The Mad Tea Party. TV adaptation: Adventure of the Mad Tea Party (Hutton/Wayne series).

The Spanish Cape Mystery
1935
Men hated John Marco just as much as women adored him. For other men's women were his meat, high-priced sex his trade, and it was fitting that he died as he had made love, absolutely naked. The moment Ellery Queen unwrapped the long black opera cloak from Marco's nude corpse, he knew the naked truth would be even nastier. Every guest at the isolated mansion had a shameful tie with Marco—but which one had twisted it into a stranger's knot...?

Red herrings abound, and while EQ's solution plays fair and the deductions are valid, the murderer may be guessed by a few. Some consider it the most logically pure EQ. Movie: The Spanish Cape Mystery.

The Lamp of God
1935
A serialized short novel about a disappearing house, eventually published as a standalone paperback c. 1939.

We weren’t bowled over by the vanishing domicile. For details, see New Adventures of Ellery Queen, where this novelette was republished along with a generous collection of short stories.

Halfway House
1936
The victim had lived two lives, but a single knife-thrust ended both of them. The trail of suspicion led into the guilt-edged world of the beautiful people—and climaxed in a vicious courtroom battle that ended with a shattering verdict. It seemed that for the first time Ellery Queen had met his match—until the sleuth blended his usual impeccable logic with a most unusual fling at love to bait a trap to tempt the bizarre tastes of an extraordinary murderer.

EQ's writing is getting more into character and personality now, although the puzzles are still first-rate. The bit with the matches, however, can easily have holes punched in it.

The Door Between
1937
Karen Leith was dead. She had died quite alone, in a small secluded room in her weird Greenwich Village house. It was, of course, suicide. Some hideous secret long ago had transformed Karen into a silent, unhappy woman. Ellery Queen was one of the few who doubted the suicide theory. As he followed a strange and devious trail to the solution he found out why she was so dangerous to one person that she had to die.

A departure: much of the story is told from the perspective of one of the female characters (possibly to increase interest among women readers). A classic 'locked room' mystery, quite well worked out. Movie (greatly altered): Ellery Queen, Master Detective.

The Devil to Pay
1938
It was a script that could only have come from Hollywood: the spectacular wedding of two superstars after a scandal-filled courtship...a wild trip by private plane to an exclusive hideaway...a deadly double overdose of drugs...But these corpses weren't play-acting. And once again Ellery Queen was cast in the role of master detective, as he found nothing was quite what it seemed in the never-never land of moviedom—except sudden, violent death.

The first of the Hollywood EQs, and the first to have vaguely political overtones. How odd that the police did not catch the rather elementary clues that EQ did. Movie: Ellery Queen and the Perfect Crime.

The Four of Hearts
1938
It was a script that could only have come from Hollywood: the spectacular wedding of two superstars after a scandal-filled courtship...a wild trip by private plane to an exclusive hideaway...a deadly double overdose of drugs...But these corpses weren't play-acting. And once again Ellery Queen was cast in the role of master detective, as he found nothing was quite what it seemed in the never-never land of moviedom—except sudden, violent death.

EQ still in Hollywood, picks up where The Devil To Pay left off. Marvelously twisted plotting a throwback to the earlier Queens, with the final revelations fairly deducable from the clues.

The Dragon's Teeth
1939
One girl was a dazzling creature from Hollywood with a talent for attracting handsome men and ugly violence. The other was fresh from the French Riviera, where she specialized in sophisticated fun and games. Ellery Queen had a dead millionaire on his hands, two beautiful warring female hellcats on his back, and danger tightening its embrace as he put his body on the line to find out which of his two suspects was far more deadly than any male.

False identities, including an imposter Ellery Queen! A bit cartoonish. The ultimate deductions take a bit of a leap, but the romance/marriage subplot is compelling.

The New Adventures of Ellery Queen
1940
The Lamp of God - The Adventure of the Treasure Hunt - The Adventure of the Hollow Dragon - The Adventure of the House of Darkness - The Adventure of the Bleeding Portrait - Man Bites Dog - Long Shot - Mind over Matter - Trojan Horse

The first thing to vanish is a worthless doorstop. Then, in the twinkling if an eye, goes its rich and elderly owner. And, for the grand finale, both reappear—each as dead as the other. Then the piece de resistance. This time it's an entire house, a real house, a solid house which Ellery Queen had been in only the day before...vanished from the face of the earth. And in its place, one of the most incredible conundrums ever to face the master crime solver.

The vanishing house bit seems spectacular but is easily thought through, and not entirely logical as done here. (A few episodes of the tv series Banacek recycled this basic idea.) Several Hollywood stories keep EQ romancing Paula Paris from The Four of Hearts.

Calamity Town
1942
Wrightsville was a typical American town, buried in the great American heartland, up to its collective neck in good old American corn. No family in town was more respected, naturally enough, than the Wrights. And it was the job of big-city slicker Ellery Queen to find out which of the Wrights was the town poisoner.

The first Wrightsville story is a masterpiece of character and scene. But the key points of the mystery aren't that difficult to figure out. Still, a deservedly recognized classic. Movie: The Three Undelivered Letters.

There Was an Old Woman
1943
Once upon an evil time, there was a wicked old woman with many millions of dollars, a hen-pecked husband, and six miserable children. Then one day death came visiting the vast grotesque Potts mansion—and began claiming its inhabitants one by one. It was then that Ellery Queen was invited to sup on this nightmare brew of diabolical murder and baffling mystery—in a case that made the most horrific crimes in his entire career seem like fairy tales.

You think you're a jump ahead of EQ when you get the solution first—but the solution is not the solution. Or is it? First of the multiple twist endings that would become another EQ trademark. Introduces Nikki Porter—for the second time in print, as the novelization of the movie Ellery Queen, Master Detective had already done the honors. Counting radio and movies she first met EQ in four different ways!

The Murderer Is a Fox
1945
Davy Fox knew he loved his wife...as well as he knew he was going to kill her. He didn't know just when it was going to happen—but when a man is born to be a murderer, it's only a matter of time before he claims his birthright. Love turns out to be a matter of life or death—and it's up to Ellery Queen to make the choice!

EQ's second visit to Wrightsville brings his most vividly involving character studies; on this level, it's EQ's masterwork. A pity that the final final resolution is based on rather thin evidence.

The Casebook of Ellery Queen
1945
The House of Darkness - The Teakwood Case - The Hollow Dragon - Long Shot - Mind Over Matter
Radio plays: The Double Triangle - The Invisible Clock - Honeymoon House


A collection of short stories and radio scripts.

The only EQ I don't have. Sigh.

Ten Days' Wonder
1948
When Howard Van Horn staggered into Ellery Queen's apartment, his handsome face was pounded to a pulp, and the blood on his hands and clothes was not all his own. What was worse, he had no idea of where he had been for the past 19 days! Ellery liked Howard. He had no choice but to try to get to the bottom of the nightmare that was destroying Howard's mind and life. Little did he suspect that his own nightmare had just begun.

Another trip to Wrightsville, the first of the self-doubting tales, and another double-twist ending. Brilliant portrayals but this one's really far-fetched. Still, our favorite of the later books. Movie: Ten Days' Wonder.

Cat 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.