My Book Notes: The Chinese Orange Mystery, 1934 (Ellery Queen Detective #8) by Ellery Queen

Esta entrada es bilingüe, desplazarse hacia abajo para ver la versión en español

Mysterious Press.com/Open Road Integrated Media, 2014. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1288 KB. Print Length: 290 pages. ASIN: B00B1MSILY. ISBN: 978-1-4532-8943-3. Originally published in the US by Frederick A. Stokes Company in 1934 and in the UK by V. G. Gollancz (UK) the same year. The Chinese Orange Mystery is the eighth book in Ellery Queen Detective Series, it was preceded by The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933) and followed by The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935).

This time, everything in the room is reversed, including the dead man’s clothing.  International queries fail in identifying the victim.  The icing on the cake: the victim or the murderer ate a tangerine before the bloody act.  Oh, and let us not forget the two spears shoved inside the length of the victim’s reversed clothing.’ (Reading Ellery Queen)

9781453289433Book Description: Mandarin Press is a premier publishing house for foreign literature, but to those at the top of this enterprise, there is little more beautiful than a rare stamp. As Donald Kirk, publisher and philatelist, prepares his office for a banquet, an unfamiliar man comes to call. No one recognizes him, but Kirk’s staff is used to strange characters visiting their boss, so Kirk’s secretary asks him to wait in the anteroom. Within an hour, the mysterious visitor is dead on the floor, head bashed in with a fireplace poker, and everything in the anteroom has been quite literally turned upside down. The rug is backwards; the furniture is backwards; even the dead man’s clothes have been put on front-to-back. As debonair detective Ellery Queen pries into the secrets of Mandarin Press, every clue he finds is topsy-turvy. The great sleuth must tread lightly, for walking backwards is a surefire way to step off a cliff.

The Chinese Orange Mystery was loosely adapted for the 1936 film The Mandarin Mystery, starring Eddie Quillan as Ellery Queen. Some elements of the novel were used as the basis for the 1941 film Ellery Queen’s Penthouse Mystery, which was then novelized as The Penthouse Mystery by a ghost writer and published as by Ellery Queen. (From Wikipedia)

My take:  An unknown man met his death in an anteroom at Mandarin Press. The room had two doors, the door from the office side was bolted from the inside, the one to the corridor wasn’t locked, consequently any one could have had access to this room by way of the emergency stairs. A few hours ago, the man came to visit Mr. Donald Kirk in his private office at the headquarters of Mandarin Press, on the twenty-second floor of Hotel Chancellor. When he was told Mr. Douglas Kirk was not in, he didn’t mind waiting. Such situation was not unusual at Mandarin Press. Mr Donald Kirk used to receive there many individuals for issues related to his two passions, philately and jewellery collection, as well as for confidential publishing business. The man’s behaviour didn’t surprise anybody, and he was asked to wait in the anteroom in which he was found dead.

Maybe his death would not have been that odd were it not because the furniture and everything else of a movable nature in the room was upside-down. Every piece of furniture in the room were backwards, facing the wall. All movable objects in the room were backwards, a bowl of fruit, the rug, the pictures, … etc. Even the man’s clothes, with the only exception of his shoes, was backwards. Nothing seemed to make sense. No one seemed to know whom that man was, besides he wasn’t carrying anything to identify him. Even his clothes’ tags had been removed. It was as if the man in question would have arrived to earth from another planet.

When Donald Kirk himself together with Ellery Queen found his body with his skull shattered with a poker, the man may have been dead a little over an hour. His death was probably instantaneous. The most remarkable thing was that  –he’s got all his clothes on backwards! Besides, two broad flat pointed blades of African spears were going through inside his clothes, from his trousers until showing up by his collar.

Whilst almost everything in this story is highly improbable and quite unconventional, I found its reading interesting and really attractive. I was highly intrigued about what could have happened, and no way I would have anticipate how it was going to end. Perhaps my only quibble is that its end result has seem to me a bit artificial and overly elaborated. Though it is well possible that it was my own fault if I didn’t fully understand it all. 

In any case it is worth noting that this book is a good example why I prefer to use the term impossible crime rather than locked-room mystery. The crime in fact doesn’t take place in a locked-room, although it’s an impossible crime. Unfortunately the term locked-room succeeded and today is widely accepted. Another attractive element is the fact that the identity of the victim doesn’t really matter to the solution. And, finally, this story also contains a “Challenge to the Reader” just before the ending is revealed, what only happens, if my information is right, on the first nine books in Ellery Queens’s canon.

The Chinese Orange Mystery has been reviewed, among others, at My Reader’s Block, A Penguin a Week, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Only Detect, Reading Ellery Queen, Goodreads John’s Reviews, Vintage Pop Fictions, The Invisible Event, Countdown John’s Christie Journal, Classic Mysteries, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, and Dead Yesterday.

2619

(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Frederick A. Stokes Company (USA), 1934)

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.

The Ellery Queen mysteries have been divided by EQ expert Francis Nevins chronologically into four periods: Period I (1929-1935), Period II (1936-1940), Period III (1942-1958) and Period IV (1963-1971). Period One includes the following novels: The Roman Hat Mystery (1929); The French Powder Mystery (1930); The Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931); The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932); The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932); The American Gun Mystery (1933); The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933); The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934); and The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935); plus all short stories from The Adventures of Ellery Queen and two of the stories from The New Adventures of Ellery Queen (“The Adventure of the House of Darkness” and “The Lamp of God”).

Mysterious Press publicity page

Open Road publicity page

Otto Penzler publishers publicity page

The Chinese Orange Mystery at Ellery Queen Website

Mike Grost on Ellery Queen 

El misterio de la mandarina, de Ellery Queen

“En esta ocasión, todo en la habitación está del revés, incluida la ropa del muerto. Las consultas internacionales no consiguen identificar a la víctima. El toque perfecto: la víctima o el asesino se comió una mandarina antes del acto sanguinolento. Ah, y no debemos olvidarnos de las dos lanzas intoducidas por dentro de las ropas puestas al revés de la víctima.” (Reading Ellery Queen)

BoAm58 - MISTERIO_MANDARINA_smallDescripción del libro: Mandarin Press es una de las principales editoriales en literatura extranjera, pero para los que están al frente de esta empresa, nada hay más hermoso que un sello raro. Mientras Donald Kirk, editor y filatelista, prepara un banquete para los empleados de su oficina, llega un hombre desconocido. Nadie lo conoce, pero el personal de Kirk está acostumbrado a que personajes extraños visiten a su jefe, por lo que la secretaria de Kirk le pide que espere en la antesala. Al cabo de una hora, el misterioso visitante yace muerto en el suelo, su cabeza golpeada con un atizador de chimenea, y todo en la antesala está literalmente patas arriba. La alfombra está al revés; los muebles están al revés; incluso la ropa del muerto está puesta del revés. Conforme el elegante detective Ellery Queen se pone a curiosear en los secretos de Mandarin Press, cada pista que encuentra está desordenada. El gran detective debe andar con precaución, ya que caminar hacia atrás es una forma segura de caerse por un acantilado.

La novela fue adaptada libremente al cine en 1936  como The Mandarin Mystery, protagonizada por Eddie Quillan como Ellery Queen. Algunos elementos de la novela se utilizaron como base para la película Ellery Queen’s Penthouse Mystery de 1941, que luego fue novelizada como The Penthouse Mystery por un escritor en la sombra y publicada como de Ellery Queen. (De Wikipedia)

Mi opinión: Un desconocido murió en la antesala de Mandarin Press. La habitación tenía dos puertas, la puerta al lado de la oficina estaba cerrada con cerrojo desde el interior, la del pasillo no estaba cerrada, por lo que cualquiera podía haber tenido acceso a esta habitación por las escaleras de emergencia. Hace unas horas, el hombre vino a visitar al Sr. Donald Kirk en su oficina privada en la sede de Mandarin Press, en el piso veintidós del Hotel Chancellor. Cuando le dijeron que el Sr. Douglas Kirk no estaba, no le importó esperar. Tal situación no era inusual en Mandarin Press. El Sr. Donald Kirk solía recibir allí a muchas personas por temas relacionados con sus dos pasiones, la filatelia y la colección de joyas, así como por negocios editoriales confidenciales. El comportamiento del hombre no sorprendió a nadie, y se le pidió que esperara en la antesala en la que lo encontraron muerto.

Tal vez su muerte no hubiera sido tan extraña si no hubiera sido porque los muebles y todo lo demás de naturaleza móvil en la habitación estaba patas arriba. Todos los muebles de la habitación estaban al revés, mirando hacia la pared. Todos los objetos móviles de la habitación estaban al revés, un cuenco de fruta, la alfombra, los cuadros,… etc. Incluso la ropa del hombre, con la única excepción de los zapatos, estaba al revés. Nada parecía tener sentido. Nadie parecía saber quién era ese hombre, además no llevaba nada que lo identificara. Incluso le habían quitado las etiquetas de la ropa. Era como si el hombre en cuestión hubiera llegado a la Tierra desde otro planeta.

Cuando el propio Donald Kirk junto con Ellery Queen encontraron su cuerpo con el cráneo destrozado con un atizador, el hombre quizá llevaba muerto poco más de una hora. Probablemente su muerte fue instantánea. Lo más destacable fue que, ¡tiene toda la ropa puesta al revés! Además, dos hojas anchas y puntiagudas de lanzas africanas le atravesaban el interior de la ropa, desde los pantalones hasta asomar por el cuello.

Si bien casi todo en esta historia es muy improbable y poco convencional, encontré su lectura interesante y realmente atractiva. Estaba muy intrigado por lo que podría haber sucedido, y de ninguna manera hubiera anticipado cómo iba a terminar. Quizás mi única objeción es que su resultado final me ha parecido un poco artificial y demasiado rebuscado. Aunque es muy posible que haya sido mi culpa si no lo entendí completamente.

En cualquier caso, vale la pena señalar que este libro es un buen ejemplo de por qué prefiero utilizar el término crimen imposible en lugar de misterio de cuarto cerrado. De hecho, el crimen no tiene lugar en un cuarto cerrado, aunque es un crimen imposible. Desafortunadamente, el término cuarto cerrado tuvo éxito y hoy en día es ampliamente aceptado. Otro elemento atractivo es el hecho de que la identidad de la víctima realmente no importa para encontrar la solución. Y, finalmente, esta historia también contiene un “Desafío al lector” justo antes de que se revele el final, lo que solo sucede, si mi información es correcta, en los primeros nueve libros del canon de Ellery Queens.

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.

Los misterios de Ellery Queen han sido divididos cronológicamente por el experto en EQ Francis Nevins en cuatro períodos: Período I (1929-1935), Período II (1936-1940), Período III (1942-1958) y Período IV (1963-1971). El primer período incluye las siguientes novelas: The Roman Hat Mystery (1929) El misterio del sombrero de copa; The French Powder Mystery (1930) El misterio de los polvos; The Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931) El misterio del zapato blanco; The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932) El misterio del ataúd griego; The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932) El misterio de la cruz egipcia; The American Gun Mystery (1933) El misterio de la pistola americana; The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933) El misterio de los hermanos siameses; The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934) El misterio de la mandarina; The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) El misterio de Cabo Español; además de todos los relatos breves de The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1934) Las aventuras de Ellery Queen y dos relatos de The New Adventures of Ellery Queen (1940) Las nuevas aventuras de Ellery Queen ( (“The Adventure of the House of Darkness” y “The Lamp of God”).

An Introduction to Ellery Queen (Updated 16/12/2020 22:42)

1Ellery Queen novels have long been a pending topic in my readings and I’ve decided to fill this gap next year. This post is intended to keep track of my reading progress. Stay tuned. See my previous post here.

Queen’s career is often divided into four distinct periods: 1929-1935, 1936-1941, 1942-1958, and 1963-1970.

Period One (1929 – 1935). Includes all novels from The Roman Hat Mystery to The Spanish Cape Mystery, and all short stories from The Adventures of Ellery Queen and two of the stories from The New Adventures of Ellery Queen (“The Adventure of the House of Darkness” and “The Lamp of God”).

Period Two (1936 – 1941). Includes all novels from Halfway House to The Dragon’s Teeth and the remaining short stories from The New Adventures of Ellery Queen.

Period Three (1942 – 1958). Includes all novels from Calamity Town to The Finishing Stroke, and all short stories from Calendar of Crime and Q.B.I., three stories from Queen’s Full (“Diamond’s in Paradise”, “The Wrightsville Heirs” and “The Case Against Carroll”) as well as some stray short stories published in QED and Tragedy of Errors (“The Lonely Bride”, “Eve of the Wedding”, “Object Lesson”, “No Parking”, “No Place to Live”, “Terror Town”, “Miracles Do Happen”).

In Calamity Town (1942) the New England town of Wrightsville is introduced, the place where many of Ellery’s novel-length and short story adventures of the next three decades take place. Besides Calamity Town the Wrightsville Murders” novels are: The Murderer Is a Fox (1945); Ten Day’s Wonder (1948); Double, Double (1950); The King is Dead one chapter (1952) and The Last Woman in His Life (1970).  The short stories and novelettes set in Wrightsville are: “The Robber of Wrightsville” (1953) short story in Today’s Family 2/53 and as “The Accused” in EQMM 12/54; “GI Story” (1954) short story in EQMM 8/54; “Eve of the Wedding” (1955) short story, as “Bride in Danger” in EQMM 8/55; “The Wrightsville Heirs” (1956) novelette, Better Living 1/56 reprinted in EQMM 11/57; “The Death of Don Juan” (1962) novelette, Argosy 5/62 reprinted in EQMM 8/64; “Mum is the Word” (1966) novelette, EQMM 4/66; and “Wedding Anniversary” (1967) short story, EQMM 9/67. (Following the suggestion of Dale Andrews)

Period Four (1963 – 1971) Includes all novels from The Player on the Other Side to A Fine and Private Place, as well as the outline Tragedy of Errors and all the remaining short stories from Queen’s Full, QED, Best of Ellery Queen and Tragedy of Errors. (To be absolutely correct, it actually leaves out three short stories which were published between 1958 and 1963… )

Your comments are welcome.

My plan includes the following titles:

  1. The Roman Hat Mystery (1929)
  2. The French Powder Mystery (1930)
  3. The Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931)
  4. The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932)
  5. The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932)
  6. The American Gun Mystery (1933)
  7. The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933)
  8. The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934)
  9. The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935)
  10. The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1935)
  11. The Door Between (1937)
  12. The Four of Hearts (1938)
  13. The Dragon’s Teeth (1939) aka The Virgin Heiresses
  14. The New Adventures of Ellery Queen (1940)
  15. Calamity Town (1942)
  16. The Murderer is a Fox (1945)
  17. Ten Days’ Wonder (1948)
  18. Cat of Many Tails (1949)
  19. Double, Double (1950)
  20. The Origin of Evil (1951)
  21. The King is Dead (1952)
  22. The Player on The Other Side (1963)
  23. Face to Face (1967)
  24. The Last Woman in His Life (1970) 
  25. A Fine and Private Place (1971)

And as Barnaby Ross:

  1. The Tragedy of X (1932)
  2. The Tragedy of Y (1932)
  3. The Tragedy of Z (1933)

Queen, Ellery (Frederic Dannay [1905-1982]/ Manfred B. Lee [1905-1971])

rdfather-2-e1526399239379Ellery Queen is both a fictional character and a pseudonym used by two American cousins, Frederick Dannay (1905–1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905–1971), to write detective fiction. In a successful series of novels that covered 42 years, Ellery Queen was not only the name of the author, but also that of the detective-hero of the stories. Movies, radio shows, and television shows have been based on their works. The two, particularly Dannay, were also responsible for co-founding and directing Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, generally considered as one of the most influential English crime fiction magazines of the last fifty years. During an extended period of writer’s block, ‘Ellery Queen’ novels were turned out by a stable of writers from plot outlines provided by Lee.

Ellery Queen was created when Dannay and Lee entered a writing contest sponsored by a magazine for the best first mystery novel. They decided to use as their collective pseudonym the same name that they had given their detective. Inspired by the formula and style of the Philo Vance novels by SS Van Dine, their entry won the contest but before it could be published, the magazine was sold and the prize given to another entrant by the new owner. Undeterred, the cousins decided to take the novel to publishers, and The Roman Hat Mystery was published in 1929.

The Roman Hat Mystery established a basic formula: the unusual crime, the complex series of clues, the supporting characters of Ellery’s father Inspector Richard Queen and his irascible assistant Sergeant Velie, and what would become most famous, Ellery’s “Challenge to the Reader”. This was a single page near the end of the book declaring that the reader now had seen all the same clues Ellery had, and asking if the reader could deduce the solution.

Ellery the character was himself a detective story writer, a snobbish, almost priggish intellectual who investigated and solved crimes solely because he found them stimulating. His mannerisms in the first nine or ten novels were apparently based on those of the extremely popular Philo Vance character of the same era and are today tiring, even irritating, to most modern readers—among other things he wore a pince-nez. Eventually these mannerisms were toned down or disappeared entirely, to the point where he became a near-faceless, near-characterless persona whose role in the books was purely to solve the mystery.

The Queen novels were the epitome of the classic “fair play”, whodunit mystery, particularly during what was known as the “Golden Age” of the mystery novel. All the clues are made available to the reader in the same way they are to the protagonist detective, and so the reading of the book becomes an intellectual challenge as well. Mystery writer John Dickson Carr termed it “the grandest game in the world.” Other characteristics of the early Queen novels were the intricately plotted clues and solutions. In The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932), often regarded as the finest Ellery Queen novel, multiple solutions to the mystery are proposed, a feature that would show up in later books, most notably Double, Double and Ten Days’ Wonder.

In that same year, the cousins created Drury Lane under the name of Barnaby Ross, eventually writing four novels about Lane, a Shakespearian actor/detective. These novels were later reiussed under the Ellery Queen byline. For a while in the 1930s “Ellery Queen” and “Barnaby Ross” even staged a series of public debates in which one cousin impersonated Queen and the other impersonated Ross.

By 1938, with Ellery making the move to Hollywood to try his hand at scriptwriting, both his character and the character of the novels began to change. Romance was introduced, the solutions began to involve psychological elements as well, and the “Challenge” vanished from the pages. The novels also moved from mere puzzles to more introspective themes. Ten Days’ Wonder (1948), set in the New England town of Wrightsville (a backdrop for several Queen novels during the 1940s), was even bold enough to show the limitations of Ellery’s methods of detection. The 1950s and 1960s showed more experimental work, with one of the last novels to feature Ellery, And on the Eighth Day (1964), being a religious allegory touching on fascism. Although some of the later novels, especially Calamity Town and Cat of Many Tails, are considered classics, some criticize the combination of religious symbolism and detection in the later Queens as clumsy and pretentious. Some of the later Ellery Queen novels were ghost-written by science fiction writers Theodore Sturgeon, Avram Davidson, and Jack Vance.

Towards the end of their careers, the cousins also produced novels, mainly original paperbacks, written by various people under the Ellery Queen name that did not feature the character Ellery Queen as the protagonist. These included three novels featuring the governor’s “troubleshooter” Mike McCall: The Campus Murders (1969, written by Gil Brewer); The Black Hearts Murder (1970, written by Richard Deming); and The Blue Movie Murders (1972, written by Edward D. Hoch). The science-fiction writer Jack Vance also wrote four of these books. One of them, A Room to Die in, is a particularly ingenious locked room mystery.

The Ellery Queen character and stories were adapted for a critically acclaimed but short-lived American television series in the mid-1970s starring Jim Hutton in the title role. Each episode would end with Queen breaking the fourth wall to go over the facts of the case and invite the audience to solve the mystery on their own.

Among the many variants were syndicated radio “filler” spots during the 1970s, called “Ellery Queen’s Minute Mysteries”. The spots would begin with a professional announcer saying, “This is Ellery Queen…” and would go on to describe a case in one minute. The radio station would then encourage callers to try to solve the mystery and win a sponsor’s prize. Once they got a winner, the solution part of the spot would be played as confirmation.

The cousins, under their collective pseudonym, were given the Grand Master Award for achievements in the field of the mystery story by the Mystery Writers of America in 1961. (Source: Wikipedia)

As fans of Ellery Queen (Queenians?) know, the Ellery Queen mysteries have been divided by EQ expert Francis Nevins chronologically into four periods: Period I (1929-1935), Period II (1936-1940), Period III (1942-1958) and Period IV (1963-1971).

Period I Queen is the period of the most materially rich (i.e., clue dense) Queens, when the author–actually, as we know, two cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee–was emulating the classic, puzzle-oriented detective novel of the Golden Age. This was the period of the famous “Challenge to the Reader,” a point near the end of the novels, when the authors informed their readers that they now had all the clues they needed to solve the puzzle.  Many people see some of the Queen novels from this period (The Greek Coffin Mystery, The Tragedy of X, and The Tragedy of Y seem to be the most consistently named, but I would definitely add as well The Siamese Twin Mystery) as being at the apex of the Golden Age art.

Period II Queen was when Queen went “slick,” seeking success in serializations in the glossy magazines and in the films.  Plotting complexity was downplayed, in favor of increased emphasis on emotions (including-gasp!-love). This seems to be everyone’s least favorite Queen period.

Period III was when Queen went for greater psychological realism and thematic depth, although there is significant variance in the books of this period as well. There is convincing naturalism (particularly in some of the Wrightsville novels, set in a “heartland” town, located either in upstate New York or New England), but often as well there is quite fantastic plotting that seems at war with the naturalism, as Lee himself complained in correspondence with Dannay. Still, many people prefer this period to Period I (and certainly Period II), seeing it as more artistically mature and complex.  In particular, Calamity Town, Ten Days’ Wonder and Cat of Many Tails are typically acclaimed as masterpieces by Queen fans.

Period IV is, for me anyway, rather harder to categorize.  Most obviously, Manfred Lee, who had written the novels from Frederic Dannay’s outlines, bowed out of the writing of a number of the books in this period, causing Dannay to seek out ghost writers for his plots (this was not acknowledged at the time). This period is seen by some as having produced some of the best Queens (The Player on the Other Side, And On the Eighth Day, Face to Face), as well as some of the worst (The House of Brass, The Last Woman in His Life, A Fine and Private Place) and some of the downright oddest (Cop Out).

I have to admit I tend to gravitate to Period I myself, but I recently read Queen’s Period III detective novel The Origin of Evil (1951) and was quite impressed, with a few caveats. (Source: The Passing Tramp)

Novels: The Roman Hat Mystery (1929); The French Powder Mystery (1930); The Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931); The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932); The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932); The American Gun Mystery (1933); The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933); The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934); The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935); The Lamp of God (1935); Halfway House (1936); The Door Between (1937); The Devil to Pay (1938); The Four of Hearts (1938); The Dragon’s Teeth (1939); Calamity Town (1942); There Was an Old Woman (1943); The Murderer Is a Fox (1945); Ten Days’ Wonder (1948); Cat of Many Tails (1949); Double, Double (1950); The Origin of Evil (1951); The King Is Dead (1952); The Scarlet Letters (1953); The Glass Village (1954); Inspector Queen’s Own Case (1956); The Finishing Stroke (1958); The Player on the Other Side (1963); And on the Eighth Day (1964)The Fourth Side of the Triangle (1965); A Study in Terror (1966); Face to Face (1967); The House of Brass (1968); Cop Out (1969); The Last Woman in His Life (1970); and A Fine and Private Place (1971)

Short stories collections: The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1935); The New Adventures of Ellery Queen (1940); The Case Book of Ellery Queen (1950) – a compilation of the previous two; Calendar of Crime (1952); QBI: Queen’s Bureau of Investigation (1955); Queens Full (1966); QED: Queen’s Experiments in Detection (1968); The Best of Ellery Queen (1985) one previously uncollected; The Tragedy of Errors (1999) {a previously unpublished synopsis written by Dannay}; The Adventure of the Murdered Moths and Other Radio Mysteries (2005).

As Barnaby Ross: The Tragedy of X (1932); The Tragedy of Y (1932); The Tragedy of Z (1933); and Drury Lane’s Last Case (1933).

For a complete bibliography of his work, see the Ellery Queen web site by Mark Koldys.

“Ellery Queen is the American detective story.”

Recommended Reading: (Source: A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection)

  • Francis M. Nevins’ Royal Bloodline: Ellery Queen, Author and Detective (1974) is a superb critical study of EQ’s work. This is perhaps the best single author study of any detective fiction writer, and it has served as a model for most critical works in the mystery field that have come after it.
  • The Sound of Detection: Ellery Queen’s Adventures in Radio (2002), by Nevins and Martin Grams, Jr., is a detailed history of the Ellery Queen radio program, with a complete listing of all the shows. It also contains biographical information on the Queen cousins. Nevins’ introduction to The Best of Ellery Queen (1985), edited by Nevins and Martin H. Greenberg, contains much useful biographical information.
  • Francis M. Nevins’ book Ellery Queen: The Art of Detection (2013) sums up his ideas and research on Ellery Queen.
  • All of the dates for EQ works in this article are taken directly from the above scholarly writings by Nevins and his colleagues, something I wish to acknowledge with gratitude.
  • The second half of The Tragedy of Errors (1999) contains reminiscences of the Queen cousins by people who knew them, along with highly informed overviews of their work. This book is available from its publisher, Crippen & Landru.
  • During each month of 2005, the Centenary of the birth of Ellery Queen in 1905, EQMM ran articles on the Queen cousins, and different aspects of their work. These are valuable, both critically and biographically.
  • A Silver Anniversary Tribute to Ellery Queen from Authors, Critics, Editors and Famous Fans (1954) was a booklet published to celebrate the 25th anniversary of EQ’s first novel, The Roman Hat Mystery (1929). One hopes that it can be reprinted, along with the recent EQMM articles, in a way that would make it currently available to all. It contains praise of EQ from virtually everyone in the mystery community, in a series of brief quotations. The booklet reveals the central importance EQ had in mystery writing and editing. The contributions are surprisingly substantial, if brief, and offer much food for thought about mystery fiction, its significance, and its historical state and status in 1954. Hugh Pentecost wrote in part: “The mystery writer in our generation has had a hard struggle to keep dignity and quality alive in a mass production period. If there is one personality in the field who has done more than any other to maintain these qualities for all of us it is Ellery Queen.”

2633 (Facsimile Dust Jacket, Frederick A. Stokes Company (USA), 1932)

The Greek Coffin Mystery, first published in 1932, was the fourth Queen novel, and is widely regarded by connoisseurs of Golden Age fiction as a classic example of the cerebral whodunit. There is a cast of characters – 33 of them, plus six staff detectives, are named. There is a foreword, explaining that this case occurred very early in Ellery’s sleuthing career. There’s a map of the location of the main action. There are two floor plans. There is a jaunty “challenge to the reader”. There are no fewer than four elaborate solutions to the mystery put forward at various times. And there is a contents list which reveals that the initial letters of the chapter titles form an acrostic, giving the title of the book and name of the author. What more could any Golden Age fan want? (‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’)

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

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

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.