Yes, each of them had their share of clunkers, but, by and large, their output was brilliant. Of course, other mystery writers made their way onto my bookshelves, some of them offering plenty of titles Rex Stout and others with a relatively small bibliography Christianna Brand, Dashiell Hammett. I enjoyed them all! For March, Rich selected a special year indeed: How fitting, then, for me to try for the first time a classic author who published that year. So he picks up Passenger to Frankfurt — and a potential fan bites the dust!
Which brings me to Patricia Wentworth. Lots of people love Wentworth, but I have somehow avoided her charms for a very long time. Over a year ago, I picked up one of her books at a library sale to break my long-standing fast. And so I read it for Rich and for JJ. And I have a lot of questions! For starters, if really is the confluence of all the great things classic mystery fiction had to offer, why would Wentworth write this particular book?
And yet, this does not happen here. So I have to ask the Wentworth fans: For her plot, Wentworth has chosen one of the classic tropes of mystery fiction: In another marvelous coincidence, my friend Margot Kinberg just published a fine post on this very subject. This is a storyline that I enjoy.
MISS SILVER AND THE GREAT CONFLUENCE OF | ahsweetmysteryblog
It forms the basis of many a Hitchcock film, and all the best writers have utilized it. Both the Christie and the Dickson titles commence with prologues that immediately highlight the strengths of their respective authors. You stand charged upon this indictment with the murder of Mary Gerrard upon the 27 th of July last. Are you guilty or not guilty? The Counsel for the Crown stands up and lays out the general case against Elinor, outlining the fact that nobody but Miss Carlisle had a.
Hercule Poirot, his head a little on one side, his eyes thoughtful, was watching her. From there, we move to a lengthy flashback that not only lays out a murder scene where it appears that Elinor and only Elinor could be the culprit — an impossible crime, if you will, unless Elinor is guilty — but it shows that, even in , Christie was beginning to deepen the level characterization in her novels to fine effect.
There was nothing remarkable about this young man, except that he was a little wealthier than most. Jimmy Answell was large, good-natured, and fair-haired. He was just such an easy-going sort as people like, and there was no malice in him. His hobby was the reading of murder mysteries, like your hobby and mine. He sometimes took too much to drink, and he sometimes made a fool of himself, even as you and I. It will be well to keep these facts in mind during the murder case of the painted arrow.
Suddenly, he feels dizzy and pitches forward, unconscious. When he awakens, Hume is lying dead on the floor. The door is locked on the inside, and there is no sign that Jimmy had ever been offered a presumably drugged cocktail. Answell is promptly arrested and put on trial for murder as the only possible culprit. So, how does Wentworth begin her version of this plotline? We seem to be in the same lighthearted territory as Dickson, as we establish the presence of our heroine, Hilary, who is on the outs with the dashing Captain Henry Cavendish.
One thing I did know going into my first Wentworth was her emphasis on young romance. In a Miss Silver mystery, the young lovers are always innocent, and the sleuth is as focused on making true love right as in bringing a criminal to justice. So I figure we will get to see a lot of Hilary and Henry and that true love will win out in the end. At the start of the novel, Geoffrey Grey has been convicted of murdering his wealthy uncle, Jeffrey Everton, and has been languishing in prison for the past year. His wife, Marion, is a mess, forced to go back to work as a fashion model for a boss who capitalizes on the murder case to get Marion jobs.
Hilary has been living with Marion to bolster her spirits, and she needs a project to distract herself from her broken engagement. The chance for this presents itself on the very wrong train Hilary has boarded, where she comes face to face with Mrs. Mercer seems to be in the throes of a deep emotional crisis when she sees Hilary, and she garbles a number of things that suggest to the younger woman a guilty conscience. What is she hiding? According to the cook and her husband, the butler, Geoff and only Geoff had the opportunity to shoot his uncle in his study.
How will Hilary break Mrs. Both authors make fine use of the courtroom setting. The Judas Window is very, very funny in its depiction of Merrivale the barrister. The cast is small, and yet there is plenty of room for surprise. The murder scene is deftly done, and if the revelation of the killer is not on a par with Roger Ackroyd , it is still a satisfying conclusion, presented as a series of testimonies from various witnesses, and nicely summed up by Poirot. None of that happens in The Case Is Closed.
And repeat they do, over and over.
23 thoughts on “The Dutch Shoe Mystery – Ellery Queen (1931)”
And then Hilary visits Henry or sits down with Marion and repeats what she just heard repeated. For all this going over the same evidence, ultimately, it all boils down to. But as each witness is approached, a bit of that airtight case crumbles until you have to ask yourself if anybody in the British legal system was doing their job during the investigation or the trial. Paperback , pages. Published January 1st by Otto Penzler Books first published Ellery Queen Detective 2.
MISS SILVER AND THE GREAT CONFLUENCE OF 1937
To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The French Powder Mystery , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The French Powder Mystery. Lists with This Book. Apr 09, Tim rated it liked it. Come with me to the heyday of the early portion of the twentieth century. Walk with me through the streets of New York, and stop, if you will, at one of the grand old department stores that I have never seen but only read about in books. I am talking about a store of many floors, full of salespeople and lunch counters, mattress departments, book departments, fabric departments, and store detectives roaming about.
The store is run by its owner, who has a luxurious apartment on the top floor, acces Come with me to the heyday of the early portion of the twentieth century. The store is run by its owner, who has a luxurious apartment on the top floor, accessible only by those with one of five special keys. On this particular day, a woman goes to set up a new window display. It consists of a brand new apparatus, imported from France: She readies the window display and opens the curtains to the expectant crowd outside.
The crowd watches to see the show of the new luxury hide-away bed from France being opened. The woman turns the lever that opens the machine. As the bed gradually opens from its vertical position, a murdered woman's bloody body is revealed in its interior. So begins The French Powder Mystery. Like the other Ellery Queen mystery I've read, this book is a great lot of fun and relatively unimportant in terms of any deep philosophical meaning. As a kind of logic puzzle, the mystery is well-set up.
Being a rather inferior reader, I had no idea at all of the culprit until Ellery revealed it at the end. I imagine that the readers of ages past must have been much more sharp than today's audience, because though clues are revealed left and right, and Ellery, at each new clue, seems to be really learning something and coming to new and grand conclusions, I myself was in the dark. I suppose I've gotten used to the CSI-like device where one person discovers evidence and then turns to their partner and explains, very carefully, what exactly it means.
This is McPhearson's shoe. And it has the same DNA as the chew toy we found at the park! And if Donald wasn't at the drive-in like he said he was, he must have been somewhere else. We should find Donald and question him again.
Reading for a winter’s night: The detective fiction of Todd Downing
It's a good thing our science has given us a new lead with which to solve this mystery. After she does so, he absurdly removes the hat from the closet and asks a man to put it away. Watching, he observes the differences in the way that the man and the woman put the hat back. And from these kinds of observations, observations about evidence and personality, he comes to conclusions. Reading this book was like taking a trip into a foreign land: America in the 's. We find racism, sexism, gangsters smuggling opium, men in hats and suits, store detectives, anti-vice leagues, tough police lieutenants, wily politicians and, last but not least, people fainting all over the place every time they get a "shock.
In this case, the lovely facade of a department store window stricken with the grim decay and horror of death is a metaphor for the problems of those who own the department store, themselves putting on a show for all society, themselves living with something bad on the inside. Paradoxically, the mystery serves by its solving to reveal to the public something which was hidden about the people in the story. Unlike the mystery television shows of today, this mystery is an exercise in personality, logic, and judgment.
It is written as a kind of mind game with no goal except entertainment. The people of the past were sexist, racist, insulated, and a little silly but, whatever else they were, they were not stupid. A crowd is gathered on the sidewalk outside of French's Department Store a very Macy's-like place eager to watch the daily demonstration of the latest in modern furnishings.
The store employee steps into the model living room and bedroom and noon, precisely, begins showing the spectators the amenities of the suite. The focal point is the Murphy bed, hidden in the wall until the demonstrator pushes an ivory button The French Powder Mystery by Ellery Queen has a quite startling beginning.
The focal point is the Murphy bed, hidden in the wall until the demonstrator pushes an ivory button and out pops a most modern bed complete with satin sheets It isn't long before the woman is identified as the wife of Cyrus French, owner of the store, and French's head of security wastes no time getting hold of the police.
Inspector Richard Queen is called to the case and arrives with his son Ellery in tow. The police, including the inspector, tend to focus on the obvious clues, but Ellery's eyes are scanning everything and taking in all the minor details. Books on a desk, a glass-topped table, a setting for a card game, cigarette stubs in an ashtray, the dead woman's lipstick, the display of shoes in a closet and seemingly innocuous phrases in various witnesses' statements all catch his attention and add to the solution.
There are several suspects for the Queens to sift through--employees of the store, Winifred French's first husband, or perhaps even her missing daughter. Motives abound as well--the dead woman had headstrong ways and when she decided to interfere there was little to stop her. Perhaps she interfered just one too many times or perhaps she set her foot down on toes that had been trodden on more than enough? There are also hints that all is not as it should be at French's and maybe Mrs. French stumbled upon the secrets hidden underneath the oh-so-correct surface of the most proper department store.
Leave it Ellery to sort through the clues and see through the lies and half-truths told by the suspects in order to hand his father the culprit on a silver platter from French's kitchenware department, perhaps? An intricately plotted mystery with clues galore. I thoroughly enjoy the older Queen novels with cast of characters at the beginning, a few maps to help the reader get their bearings, and the challenge break where the reader is told they have all the information necessary to spot the culprit.
I had my suspicions of the villain of the piece, but I can't say that I picked up or understood all of the clues Ellery displays at the end. First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Apr 06, William rated it really liked it. Another entry in the Quest for Christie-Likes: I've now read entries from something close to 10 authors writing in the same time and neighborhood as Agatha Christie.
Ellery Queen really a pseudonym for a writing team of two cousins belongs right below John Dickson Carr and certainly belongs well within the top tier of pretenders to the Christie throne for, in my mind, Christie is still matchless. Really, this should come as no surprise. Queen met great success in the US and eventually spawned an anthology style monthly magazine Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine that served as one of the more iconic banners of the golden age sub-genre. I would have been shocked had I found that there was no original substance behind the machine.
The first thing one encounters upon reading the book is the formality of the proceeding. The reader is presented with a full list of characters as well as one of two maps relevant to the story. There is no pretension to being a novel of quality- simply an introduction to the puzzle by virtue of the first two of its myriad pieces. The book proceeds in fairly clockwork fashion- discovery of crime, examination of scene, questioning of suspects, rumination of detectives- all in standard order give or take a chapter. Genre addicts will be very much at home here.
So Queen gets to 3 stars just by adhering the essence of the formula I adore. Why does it earn that 4th star? Because the answer is clever and feels inevitable upon revelation. I realized that I had been holding several of the necessary deductions in my hands and just never quite strung them together quite right. To see order brought to this disorder, assuming the author has played fair and Queen largely does , is always a great satisfaction. I will say that my failure to solve the case owes something to my feeling out just how clever the writer was.
Early on, I was convinced I had seen the trick of the thing; as it turns out, I had greatly understated the complication and attention to detail with which Queen had constructed the case. Why doesn't it earn the 5th star? There are some that claim Christie's writing is too simple. These detractors miss entirely the genius of her works. In a mere lightly typeset pages, she constructs puzzles fair most of the time to bamboozle even clever minds. French Powder, taking page count and typesetting into account, is roughly twice as long. It is not as great an accomplishment to create a difficult puzzle when the puzzle is granted more, smaller pieces.
On a related note, because the book was so long, it took much longer to read. The Queen duo didn't have the stylistic flourish of Heyer or even Christie, which meant that the book had only the puzzle, itself, to impel the reader on. And it felt that the critical mass must-finish moment occurred much later because there was so much groundwork to lay. And one last minor criticism- the crime becomes so complicated that Ellery solves a great deal of it well before the denouement. This is a tad anti-climactic, as readers do not have the how-dunnit awaiting them within the final pages.
It is easier to generate longer paragraphs in criticism than in praise- especially when I don't want to spoil the things that do work right. Don't let that turn you off- I look forward to enjoying the works of the Ellery Queen duo for a long time to come. First time reading anything by Ellery Queen. It certainly doesn't approach the level of the Golden Age mystery greats, but is cleverly plotted enough. None of the characters ever graduated beyond the level of cardboard cutouts, but it's a plot-centric whodunit with plenty of clues, alibis, timetables and such—an entertaining enough mental puzzle to while away the time on a dull rainy afternoon.
Jan 11, Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it Shelves: You have to be an avid reader of the golden age of mystery to appreciate these early Ellery Queen books. Written in , when people wore pince nez, spats, and used racial epithets, it might be hard going for everyone since it is so dated.
But with that said and being obsessed with that era of the mystery story, I had fun with this book. The plot, as are most of these early books, is ridiculously complex but that is the beauty of the early Queen works. And Ellery has not quite evolved into the c You have to be an avid reader of the golden age of mystery to appreciate these early Ellery Queen books. And Ellery has not quite evolved into the character we are used to later in the series and is a bit too effete.
A murder takes place in a large department store and everyone is a suspect I'll say no more about the story since it is too involved for a synopsis but it moves right along with new clues popping up all over the place. Very enjoyable for the fan of the old mystery and it is fun to read the first of the books of a character who would become iconic through the long life of this series. Jul 04, Dfordoom rated it it was amazing Shelves: It appeared in The book certainly gets off to a stylish start.
Every day at the same time an employee of the store stages a demonstration of the features of this furniture, including in this case a foldaway bed. On this particular day when the employee presses the button to unfold the bed a corpse is revealed. It belongs to the wife of the owner of the store. As you expect in an Ellery Queen novel there are plenty of suspects and plenty of clues.
But which clues are the ones that matter? The murder could have been committed by almost any member of the French household as Mr French has private apartments on the top floor. There are seven keys to this private apartment, and those keys will assume considerable importance. Inspector Richard Queen is frankly baffled, but his son Ellery an enthusiastic amateur sleuth is not dismayed by this puzzling case.
As with most of the early Ellery Queens this book contains their famous challenge to the reader - towards the end of the book the reader is informed that he now has possession of all the facts necessary to solve the case for himself, and as was usual in the Ellery Queen mysteries the plot is so ingenious that the murderer turns out to be the only person who could possibly have committed the crime. The father-and-son crime-solving team, with the father a professional detective who employs all the conventional methods of a good police officer while the son is a gifted amateur who relies more on pure reasoning, is an effective combination.
The French Powder Mystery is unlikely to disappoint fans of the golden age detective story. Mar 02, Tom Franklin rated it really liked it. Another fine deduction crime novel, if slightly dated, from the writing team of Ellery Queen. Lots of characters , lots of Red herrings, with a final conclusion that was both logical and 'obvious' had the reader but followed all the available clues.
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As I read this book I found myself asking several questions: Why did The French Powder Mystery open not with the crime or the lead-up to the crime but rather with both Queens and a number of police officers complaining about the officiousness and meddlesomeness of the new police commissioner; why were Ellery's "brilliant insights" so mundane; why were Ellery's mundane insights repeated frequently and at length; why were the "regular police" so painfully inadequate at even the most routine aspects As I read this book I found myself asking several questions: Why did The French Powder Mystery open not with the crime or the lead-up to the crime but rather with both Queens and a number of police officers complaining about the officiousness and meddlesomeness of the new police commissioner; why were Ellery's "brilliant insights" so mundane; why were Ellery's mundane insights repeated frequently and at length; why were the "regular police" so painfully inadequate at even the most routine aspects of their job; and finally why was Ellery, a complete outsider to the police, allowed such privileged access to crime scenes and witnesses often without any official oversight at all?
By the time I finished this book I had arrived at the following answers: By situating the police commissioner as at least troublesome and perhaps an actual antagonist to the regular police force it makes it reasonable to the reader and to the police in the story that Ellery withholds clues from the police commissioner and from any other member of the police force who might pass on information to the commissioner. In fact Ellery actually removes evidence from one possible crime scene and in another case sends evidence to an analyst with specific instructions not to let the commissioner know about the result of his tests.
Why were Ellery's "brilliant insights" so mundane? I am torn in my answer to this question. His grandfather was a bigamist with 17 children. In essence, though, Downing grew up in Atoka, Okla. He spent his last years as an instructor in French and Spanish at Atoka High School while living in his family home. Downing never married, and from the evidence, it seems likely that he was gay. His active literary career was largely confined to the s. The pigeons have died from drinking the blood of the dead girl, but the medical examiner has said that she has been dead only two days, while the pigeons have been dead ten.
With this clue as a starting point, [Thatcher] Colt uncovers one of the most fiendish crimes ever committed in fact or fiction. When Downing was once asked to name his favorite detective novels, he chose the following: