Review: The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) by Ellery Queen


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Mysterious Press, 2013. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 1228 KB. Print Length: 154 pages. Originally published in 1935. ISBN: 978 1 4532 8969 3. ASIN: B00B1MSJ4U.

queen-spanishcapeSynopsis: Spanish Cape is a dramatic promontory, its rocky cliffs topped with a picturesque hacienda. This isolated spot belongs to millionaire Walter Godfrey and it should be a peaceful family getaway—but one summer evening, Rosa Godfrey argues with her uncle David as he tries to convince her not to run away with one of their guests, the roguish John Marco. Suddenly, a one-eyed gunman appears out of the twilight. He seems to mistake David for John, and forces the pair to the mainland, where he clubs David on the head and locks Rosa in an empty vacation cottage. The next day, Rosa is rescued by the renowned sleuth Ellery Queen, who had come to the coast for a holiday. For a moment, it seems her luck has changed, but then the universe delivers another crushing blow. John has been found stone dead and stark naked. This will not be the first working vacation for the unfailingly logical Ellery Queen, but to unravel the mystery of the undressed man, he will have to make sense of what happened on the worst night of Rosa Godfrey’s life.

My take: The Spanish Cape is a rocky peninsula located to the North of the Atlantic coast of the United States. The site is privately owned by millionaire Walter Godfrey. Right next to this place, Judge Macklin has rented a modest cottage until mid-October and has invited Ellery Queen to go fishing. Upon arrival, they find the front door ajar. Inside the house Rosa Godfrey, the millionaire’s daughter, is unconscious and tied to a chair. Once recovered, she tells them what happened –something already known by the reader. The night before, while she was with her uncle David Kummer, both  were kidnapped by someone called Captain Kidd, probably hired by someone unknown. Soon, it becomes clear that David Kummer was not the real target. The mistake arose from the fact that he was wearing a similar suit to one which John Marco, another one of the guests, used to wear. However, the next morning, John Marco himself is found dead on the beach terrace of the Godfreys. Surprisingly, except for a hat and an opera cloak on his shoulders, John Marco was completely naked. He had been strangled with a wire, after being knocked unconscious. The absence of footprints suggests that the murderer was inside the mansion and can be anyone of the guests. Inspector Moley takes over the investigation. Given its complexity, there’s no doubt it’s an appropriate case for Ellery Queen. The question to be made is why was the body found completely naked?

The Spanish Cape Mystery is the ninth book in the Ellery Queen’s mystery series. The plot is relatively straightforward. A murder has taken place in a secluded mansion. The house was crammed with guests at that time. Mostly everyone can be suspect. All have motives enough for having committed the crime. However, why was the victim naked? The answer will probably lead us to solve the mystery. In short, it is a classic whodunit, or perhaps even better a mystery puzzle of the Golden Age. Quite entertaining, in my view, and with no other ambition than to provide a pleasant time to the reader. It offers as well a nice portrait of what society was like in those days, and has a really resourceful solution. Its authors are among the best American representatives of the so-called Golden Age of detective fiction. And I look forward to reading more books in this series.

My rating: B (I really liked it)

The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) was made into a B movie that same year. According to John Grant (Noirish): ‘The screenplay’s a somewhat dumbed-down adaptation of a very good detective novel. All in all, then, this is not what you might call a good movie; but it is of interest in that for once there’s a screen portrayal of Ellery Queen that’s not too much a travesty of the character we know from the novels.’

,About the Author: Ellery Queen was a pen name created and shared by two cousins, Frederic Dannay (1905-1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905-1971), as well as the name of their most famous detective. Born in Brooklyn, they spent forty two years writing, editing, and anthologizing under the name, gaining a reputation as the foremost American authors of the Golden Age “fair play” mystery. Although eventually famous on television and radio, Queen’s first appearance came in 1928 when the cousins won a mystery-writing contest with the book that would eventually be published as The Roman Hat Mystery. Their character was an amateur detective who uses his spare time to assist his police inspector father in solving baffling crimes. Besides writing the Queen novels, Dannay and Lee cofounded Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, one of the most influential crime publications of all time. Although Dannay outlived his cousin by nine years, he retired Queen upon Lee’s death.

Other reviews: As I said though, these are niggles, nothing more. This is a fun, gripping read and one that has encouraged me to focus my bibliography – I had said that I wasn’t going to necessarily read the books in order, but with the stylistic changes between the first and ninth books, I think it would be more interesting to go back to the start and do them chronologically.’ (In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

‘On the whole I thought this was a complex and interesting mystery, with a dramatic twist at the end on a suitably stormy night. The allusions to other fictional sleuths such as S. S. Van Dine’s detective, Philo Vance were great to read, however, to be honest, reading the pages and pages and pages of Queen’s journey to the truth was a little trying at points due to its detail and it did affect narrative pace a bit.’  (crossexaminingcrime)

‘The Spanish Cape Mystery is quite simply a flop. I recommend avoiding it; it’s a book that thinks it’s far more clever than it really is. It’s the worst of the Queens I’ve read so far.‘ (At the Scene of the Crime)

Ellery Queen, the authors, still don’t know much about proper police procedure, nor does the occurrence of sudden, unexpected death cause nearly as much stir as surely it would in real life, but that’s not the point. This is a puzzle mystery, through and through, which each piece of the jigsaw needed to point the finger in the end at only one suspect, and one suspect only.’ (Mystery File)

Mysterious Press publicity page

The Spanish Cape Mystery at Ellery Queen Website

El misterio de Cabo Español de Ellery Queen

Sinopsis: El Cabo Español es un promontorio espectacular, sus acantilados rocosos se encuentran rematados por una pintoresca hacienda. Este lugar aislado pertenece al millonario Walter Godfrey y debería ser un lugar tranquilo para una escapada familiar pero, una noche de verano, Rosa Godfrey discute con su tío David, mientras éste intenta convencerla para que no se fugue con uno de los invitados, el granuja John Marco. De repente, un hombre tuerto armado surge entre la penumbra. Parece confundir a David con John, y obliga a la pareja a llegar hasta el continente, en donde le propina a David un golpe en la cabeza y encierra a Rosa en una casa deshabitada de veraneo. Al día siguiente, Rosa es rescatada por el prestigioso detective Ellery Queen, que había llegado a la costa a pasar unas vacaciones. Por un momento, parece que su suerte ha cambiado, pero entonces el universo le propina otro duro golpe. John  es encontrado muerto y completamente desnudo. Estas no serán las primeras vacaciones de trabajo para el siempre lógico Ellery Queen, pero para desentrañar el misterio del hombre desnudo, tendrá que poder entender lo sucedido en la peor noche de la vida de Rosa Godfrey.

Mi opinión: El Cabo Español es una península rocosa situada al norte de la costa atlántica de los Estados Unidos. El sitio es propiedad particular del millonario Walter Godfrey. Justo al lado de este lugar, el juez Macklin ha alquilado una casa modesta hasta mediados de octubre y ha invitado a Ellery Queen para ir a pescar. A su llegada, se encuentran con la puerta delantera entreabierta. Dentro de la casa Rosa Godfrey, la hija del millonario, está inconsciente y atada a una silla. Una vez recuperada, les cuenta lo que pasó , algo  ya conocido por el lector. La noche anterior, cuando estaba con su tío David Kummer, ambos fueron secuestrados por un tal Capitán Kidd, probablemente contratado por algún desconocido. Pronto, se hace evidente que David Kummer no era el verdadero objetivo. El error se debía al hecho de que llevaba un traje similar a uno que John Marco, otro de los invitados, solía usar. Sin embargo, a la mañana siguiente, John Marco es encontrado muerto en la terraza de la playa de los Godfreys. Sorprendentemente, a excepción de un sombrero y una capa de ópera sobre sus hombros, John Marco estaba completamente desnudo. Había sido estrangulado con un alambre, después de haber sido golpeado hasta quedar inconsciente. La ausencia de huellas sugiere que el asesino estaba dentro de la mansión y puede ser cualquiera de los invitados. El iInspector Moley se hace cargo de la investigación. Dada su complejidad, no hay duda de que es un caso apropiado para Ellery Queen. La pregunta que debe hacerse es por qué se encontró el cuerpo completamente desnudo?

El misterio del Cabo Español es el noveno libro de la serie de misterio de Ellery Queen. La trama es relativamente sencilla. Un asesinato ha tenido lugar en una mansión aislada. La casa estaba llena de invitados en ese momento. Casi todo el mundo puede ser sospechoso. Todos tienen motivos más que  suficientes para haber cometido el crimen. Sin embargo, ¿por qué estaba desnuda la víctima? La respuesta probablemente nos llevará a resolver el misterio. En definitiva se trata de una novela policíaca clásica, o tal vez incluso mejor una novela enigma de la Edad de Oro. Bastante entretenida, en mi opinión, y sin otra ambición que la de proporcionar al lector un rato agradable. Nos ofrece también un buen retrato de cómo era la sociedad de la época y tiene una solución muy ingeniosa. Sus autores se encuentran entre los mejores representantes americanos de la llamada Edad de Oro de la novela policíaca. Y espero leer más libros de esta serie. 

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó mucho)

El misterio del Cabo Español (1935) fue adaptada al cine ese mismo año en una película de las conocidas como serie B. Según ha escrito John Grant (Noirish): “El guión es una adaptación un tanto desmejorada de una muy buena novela policíaca. Con todo, no es pues lo que se podría llamar una buena película; pero es de interés por cuanto nos proporciona una representación en la pantalla de Ellery Queen que se aleja de la parodia del personaje que conocemos en las novelas.”

Sobre los autores: Ellery Queen era el  seudónimo creado y compartido por dos primos, Frederic Dannay (1905-1982) y Manfred B. Lee (1905-1971), así como el nombre de su detective más conocido.  Nacidos en Brooklyn, pasaron cuarenta y dos años escribiendo, editando, y recopilando antologías  bajo ese nombre, cobrando gran prestigio como los autores norteamericanos de misterio más importantes del “juego limpio” del Siglo de Oro. Aunque finalmente famosos en la televisión y en la radio, la primera aparición de Queen tuvo lugar en el 1928, cuando los primos ganaron un concurso de escritura de misterio con el libro que finalmente se publicó como El misterio del sombrero de copa. Su personaje era un detective aficionado que utiliza su tiempo libre para ayudar a su padre, inspector de policía, a resolver crímenes inexplicables. Además de escribir las novelas de Queen, Dannay y Lee fundaron conjuntamente la revista Los Misterios de Ellery Queen, una de las publicaciones del género más influyentes de todos los tiempos. Aunque Dannay vivió nueve años más que su primo, jubiló a Queen al morir Lee.

3 thoughts on “Review: The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) by Ellery Queen

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