I must admit that this is the first Ellery Queen (1905-71) book that I have ever read, and as such I cannot compare it to any other of his stories. But, that said, I found this to be a great book, and a fascinating mystery! I liked the illustrations of the crime scene and the way that the clues were laid out. I highly recommend this book to all mystery fans!
The French Powder Mystery concerns a dead body, discovered when the automatic window display of the French Department Store kicks into action one morning. The logic of the solution is rigorous, and the naming of the killer is literally the last two words of the book - even when the denoument is underway and all is being explained, the name of the bad 'un is still a surprise.
A better plot than Roman Hat and the Dutch Shoe Mysteries, I recommend it wholeheartedly!
Talking of irritating, was there ever such a provoking hero as Ellery? Pompous, arrogant and vain, he makes Lord Peter Whimsey look like a man of the people. "Scoot!" he says to a police officer, handing him some items for fingerprinting. Anyone who thinks that America has always been a classless society, in contrast to Europe's class-consciousness, should read this 1930 novel.
But is it a good tale? Well, yes, if you want a story in the classic mould. It has rather too many red herrings for my taste but I shall say no more, for fear of spoiling it.
One other complaint; the authors don't trust to the power of simple story-telling. Characters do not merely 'say' things. They 'grin broadly' - for no apparent reason - and display tobacco-stained teeth when they speak. The authors seem to think they have to embelish everything to retain the reader's interest. When the Inspector orders his men to inspect the crime scene, they do so 'grinning'. Why? Have they forgotten that the victim's poor spouse is in the room?
Having said all that, if you are a mystery fan you will want to read at least one Ellery Queen story and this is as good a one as any. One last tip: if, when you reach the final episode, you have not solved the mystery, go back over the earlier parts of the book. As the authors say, the clues are all there.