1950 Ellery Queen 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 occufred to Queen that the puzzle had a pattern. A twisted mind was committing grisly 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.
The Origin of Evil
1951 Ellery Queen was sun-bathing in the doorway of his Hollywood bedroom when the pretty young girl appeared. She was dressed in zebra-striped culottes and bolero over a bra-like doodad of bright green suede. 'I don't think there's anything funny in a dead dog, do you?' she asked. 'Dogs die all the time,' Ellery said in a kindly voice. The girl stared down at her cigaret. '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.
The King Is Dead
1952 Ellery Queen'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 howdhedoit.
Calendar of Crime
1952 The Inner Circle - The President's Half Disme - The Ides of Michael Magnon - The Emperor's Dice - The Gettysburg Bugle - The Medical Finger - The Fallen Angel - The Needle's Eye - The Three Rs - The Dead Cat - The Telltale Bottle - The Daupin's Doll
In the merry month of May, Ellery Queen 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.
The Scarlet Letters
1953 For once Ellery Queen had a simple case. A few days of discreet snooping, some choice advice, and the inimitable sleuth would blithely restore domestic harmony to the millionaire couple Dirk and Martha Lawrence. And then came the scarlet letters. And finally the cryptic alphabet clue...scrawled in a murdered man's blood. A simple case? Ellery had been a fool to think so. And unless he did some super-fast sleuthing, he'd have nothing to show but a very scarlet face.
An odd EQ, where the murder occurs 3/4 way into the story, and most of the book is a suspense tale, though admittedly with some tricky deception. A lot of Nikki Porter—does she really fit in a novel-length story?
Q.B.I.— Queen's Bureau of Investigation
1955 Money Talks - A Matter of Seconds - The Three Widows - 'My Queer Dean!' - Driver's Seat - A Lump of Sugar - Cold Money - The Myna Birds - A Question of Honor - The Robber of Wrightsville - Double Your Money - Miser's Gold - Snowball in July - The Witch of Times Square - The Gamblers' Club - G.I. Story - The Black Ledger - Child Missing!
The Letters Racket—A is for Alfred, who left his poor wife ripe for a blackmailer late in her life. B is for Brothers, three of that name, who skewered one morning the fourth Brother's dame. On through the files of Q.B.I., from Bacon to Kidnap to a Poisoner's try. The victims are many, the killers are, too, and only Ellery Queen can find out who's who!
Another collection of short stories (some very short—3 pages!). Not all murders, most of them clever, but the last, a kidnapping tale, is the easiest to second-guess. No Nikki at all.
Inspector Queen's Own Case
1956 For years, Inspector Richard Queen had been outshone by his writer son. Now, with Ellery away, he had a case all his own—or did he? The verdict had been accidental death, and only the victim's nurse had seen the one thing that made it murder. Recruiting a Senior Citizens corps of retired cops, Dick Queen tracked a murderer—and found himself courting his only witness! No wonder he kept muttering, 'What's Ellery going to say...?'
The first IQ retirement case, it really isn't up to the level of the best of the rest—but makes quick, entertaining read nonetheless. Introduces the future Mrs. Richard Queen.
The Finishing Stroke
1958 On the 8th night of Christmas your true love sends to you a head with one closed eye—a warning you will die... A gay Christmas party in a snowbound mansion turns grim when a guest begins sending anonymous gifts to his hosts. The presents are mysterious, the messages accompanying them cryptic, but the meaning behind it all is very clear. It is a slow, deliberate warning of murder—scheduled to arrive on the 12th night with the final gift—the finishing stroke.
Possibly intended as the last EQ novel, it reached back to his 'second' case (actually his third). Great build-up, but is it playing fair to hinge the solution partly on a knowledge of ancient Phoenician?
The Player on the Other Side
1963 A 5-sided card with the letter J stamped on it appeared in Robert York's mail. A day later a huge boulder crushed him dead. It was no accident. And then a card stamped with the letter H showed up for Emily York, and all the police protection in the world couldn't save her. Ellery Queen was up against a brilliant sick killer who liked to play games. Now it was Ellery's move, and he had to make it quick...or else another card would turn up!
Good story-telling, with the mysterious letters making for suspense. You've seen this final twist before, but it's as well-hidden as possible. EQ gets emotional. Ghost-written with Theodore Sturgeon.
And On the Eighth Day
1964 Dorothy B. Hughes in Book Week: The most unusual mystery in memory and perhaps in time...so filled with legitimate mystery fiction excitement that it is an edge-of-the-chair, can't-put-it-down reading experience. Ellery Queen takes a wrong turn on the great southwestern desert and finds a hidden valley, populated by a strange religious group. Take it from there yourself, for the book is not one to be divulged in bits and pieces; it is a tremendous whole.
The ultimate elevation of atmosphere and pace over plot and story. This is really a short story elaborated into a novel because of its highly unusual setting. Most satisfying. Ghost-written with Avram Davidson.
The Fourth Side of the Triangle
1965 Sheila, exotic young international leader of haute couture,is found murdered in her Park Avenue penthouse. Two floors down, the distinguished middle-aged millionaire—Ashton McKell—is hauled off to jail. Next to go, Lutecia, his shy patrician wife. And then—Dane, their handsome, sensitive son. Together, a triangle of murder suspects. Ellery Queen, immobilized, can trick the police into becoming his 'legmen' if he discovers The Fourth Side of the Triangle.
The storyline keeps moving with plenty of surprises, but the first solution seems rather more clever than the 'right' one, which is a let down. Ghost-written with Avram Davidson (from a detailed Dannay outline). TV-Movie (simplified): Ellery Queen (TV pilot) (aka Too Many Suspects).
1966 The Death of Don Juan - E = Murder - The Wrightsville Heirs - Diamonds in Paradise - The Case Against Carroll
Foster Benedict, aging matinee idol, didn't like playing the sticks. He was sabotaging the Wrightsville production of The Death of Don Juan, turning it into a farce. When the curtain rose on the second act, Benedict was dead. There were plenty of suspects—it seemed Foster Benedict had upstaged everyone in town. Ellery Queen's job was a little like a casting director's—there was plenty of talent, but no one was right for the part of killer!
Three novelettes and two short stories, well-done with appropriately clear logic. The opening story, a Wrightsville vignette with another dying clue, is probably the best of the bunch.
A Study in Terror
1966 Two great detectives match wits over the centuries, as Ellery Queen and Sherlock Holmes face the greatest puzzle in historical crime: Jack the Ripper. Was he a madman, a malcontent reformer, or a member of the highest nobility? And will Ellery Queen and Sherlock Holmes agree, or come to startlingly different conclusions? An innovative novelization of the hit movie.
Did EQ take this job just for the hack money, as has been alleged? If so, the money was well-spent, as this is a clever, creative pastiche unlike any movie movelization ever. EQ takes the story of the movie (one of the very best Sherlockian film adventures), rewrites parts of it, and then has Ellery come up with a second solution that trumps the great Holmes! (Paul W Fairman wrote the Holmes chapters.) A more detailed analysis here.
Face to Face
1967 It was death for 'Old Glory'—and the only clue to the murderer of Gloria Guild, the singing 'Glory' of the 30s, is her dying scrawl—'Face.' Why face? Whose face? Ellery Queen pursues the Glory RIddle from the Bowery to a way-out wedding—and a surprise climax that will jolt you into cold shock. And any reader who nails this killer is a genius or a cheat.
A good story on its own, but elements seem like replays from former novels. At least the solution is satisfying and clever, but haven't we seen the Showdown at a Wedding Ceremony bit before?
The House of Brass
1968 Why did the last survivor of a wealthy family bring together six people whom he didn't know and had never seen? Why did he decide to make these perfect strangers his heirs? And where was old Hendrik's fortune hidden? Ellery Queen's latest adventure is a satirical murder-comedy of the turned-on sixties which combines hilarity with the deadly macabre, and, of course, the full Queen-quota of fair-and-square deduction and endless surprise.
Another IQ in retirement tale, and a direct sequel to Inspector Queen's Own Case. Not that much plot, but there's a neat double twist and EQ has to come up with the real answer. Dad ties the knot with Jessie Sherwood. Ghost written with Avram Davidson.
Q.E.D.— Queen's Experiments in Deduction
1968 Mum Is the Word - Object Lesson - No Parking - No Place to Live - Miracles Do Happen - The Lonely Bride - Mystery at the Library of Congress - Dead Ringer - The Broken T - Half a Clue - Eve of the Wedding - Last Man to Die - Payoff - The Little Spy - The President Regrets - Abraham Lincoln's Clue
For something light and piquant, we recommend No Parking, with its bewitching heroine and her three desperate suiters. For a main course you can really sink your teeth into, there's Mum Is the Word, in which the 'dying message' offers the ultimate in hidden clues. And for an unforgettable piece de resistance, we have Abraham Lincoln's Clue, a classic that Anthony Boucher called 'perhaps the greatest of all Queen mysteries.'
EQ's short stories are hard not to like, and there are some good ones here. The Abraham Lincoln story is the best of this collection but hardly the 'greatest of all EQ mysteries.'
The Last Woman in His Life
1970 John Lovering Benedict had more of everything than most men, most of all more women—including 3 ex-wives with little in common but their extraordinary physiques. For Ellery Queen the question was which one of them had bashed in Benedict's skull with a hunk of iron statuary? The clues were many, but puzzling. All had been planted at the scene of the crime, but by whom, and for what purpose? And who was the last woman in John Benedict's life?
Another dying clue, another plot that seems stretched out for its length, with the final solution not quite as surprising as it should be. Too much penny-ante psychology, not enough story.
A Fine and Private Place
1971 The 9-word clue was one of 9 cryptic notes that had been sent to taunt Inspector Queen and Ellery 9 days after the murder. Nino Importuna had been obsessed with the number. He had lived by it. Now the killer who brought a trio of gory deaths to Nino's 9th-floor penthouse at No. 99 East was camouflaging his identity in a jungle of 9s. And daring Ellery to find him. The case was destined to be a dazzling contest of wits—to the 9th degree!
The last EQ novel is OK but not too much more. EQ's first solution is so patently wrong as to be worthless as a red herring, and the 'right' solution is not that hard to figure out either.
The Best of Ellery Queen
1985 A collection of short stories selected from the previous anthologies, plus the first book appearance of The Wedding Anniversary (1967).
The Tragedy of Errors
1999 The Tragedy of Errors (novel outline) Terror Town - Uncle from Australia - The Three Students - The Odd Man - The Honest Swindler - The Reindeer Clue (Edward D Hoch) Essays and Reminiscences
In honor of the 70th anniversary of the first Ellery Queen novel, Crippen & Landru is proud to publish the first completely new Ellery Queen book in almost thirty years. The Tragedy of Errors is the lengthy and detailed plot outline for the final, but never published, EQ novel, containing all of the hallmarks of the great Queen novels—the dying message, the succession of false solutions before the astonishing truth is revealed, and scrupulous fair play to the reader. And the theme is one that queen has been developing for many years: the manipulation of events in a world going mad by someone who aspires to the power of gods. Also contains the six hitherto uncollected EQ short stories, and a section of essays, tributes, and reminiscences of Ellery Queen, written by family members, friends, and some of the finest current mystery writers.
Based on the plot outline, this would have been a more noteworthy sendoff than A Fine and Private Place. And it's fascinating to see how the story was sketched out before the details and other finishing elements were mixed in. Definitely a major addition to the Queen canon, and the short stories and marvelous essays make this an indispensable volume.
The Adventure of the Murdered Moths
2005 Radio plays: The Adventure of the Last Man Club - The Adventure of Napoleon's Razor - The Adventure of the Bad Boy - The Adventure of the March of Death - The Adventure of the Haunted Cave - The Adventure of the Lost Child - The Adventure of the Black Secret - The Adventure of the Dying Scarecrow - The Adventure of the Woman in Black - The Adventure of the Forgotten Men - The Adventure of the Man Who Could Double the Size of Diamonds - The Adventure of the Dark Cloud - The Adventure of Mr Short and Mr Long - The Adventure of the Murdered Moths
From 1939 through 1948, The Adventures of Ellery Queen invited listeners to 'match wits with the celebrated gentleman detective as he recounts the story of a crime he alone unraveled'. The Adventure of the Murdered Moths prints 14 previously unpublished scripts, including: dying messages, impossible disappearances, murder in a cave with only the footprints of the victim, a case that Sherlock Holmes failed to solve but which Ellery was able to untangle, the Woman in Black whose ghostly appearance foreshadows death, and the clue of the dead moths.