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Siamese Twin Mystery Hardcover – Jun 1980

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Classic Ellery Queen - Among His Best Stories June 22 2003
By Michael Wischmeyer - Published on
Format: Paperback
We join Ellery and his father, Inspector Richard Queen, in an unfamiliar habitat, a remote rugged road in a forested mountainous area in upstate New York. Tired, somewhat uncertain of their directions, with night falling, the situation suddenly worsens as they find themselves cutoff by a forest fire. Following a barely visible rutted road upward, they find temporary safety at a sprawling lodge nestled on the top of Arrow mountain. As the fire below slowly encircles them, the Queens find themselves involved in a bizarre murder mystery.
Certainly, the situation is contrived. Dr. Xavier's work on Siamese twins in an isolated mountain lodge is a bit fantastic. The clues are supremely subtle. And yet this mystery is highly effective. Under the stress of the approaching fire, Ellery too hurriedly offers solutions, seemingly masterful examples of pure logic, but flawed nonetheless. (The reader may be reminded of another remarkable Ellery Queen story, The Greek Coffin Mystery.)
Ellery and Inspector Queen refuse to let the relentless forest fire dissuade them from continuing their investigation. The drama and suspense shifts back and forth between the danger posed by the ever advancing fire and the more immediate threat, the likelihood that the unknown killer will murder again.
The Siamese Twin Mystery (October, 1933) is a good example of the deductive mystery genre that was especially popular in 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. To assist the reader in unraveling the mystery, it comes complete with a playful description of the cast of characters and a floor plan of the ground level of Dr. Xavier's lodge. Surprisingly, it is missing Ellery's trademark, a pause generally found at the beginning of the last chapter, in which the author challenges the reader to solve the mystery before reading further, as all clues have now been revealed.
The Siamese Twin Mystery makes a good introduction to Ellery Queen. It has all of the elements that characterize a classic Ellery Queen mystery. It is among the best of Ellery Queen stories, comparing favorably with The Greek Coffin Mystery, The Spanish Cape Mystery, and The Tragedy of X.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Twins at the Same Business April 26 2007
By Kevin Killian - Published on
Format: Paperback
This used to be my favorite among Ellery Queen's early books, and I remembered much of its menace and grotesquerie fondly, but taking it off the shelf again I spoiled it for myself. As a child I gaped to read about John Xavier, the "mad scientist" with cages full of animals, in pairs, like some mad Noah without the Ark, a scientist who built himself a country house, "Arrow Head," at the top of the Tepee Mountains up New England way. The story has atmosphere, atmosphere enough for a better plot than the one they've given us. How many Ellery Queen books have the same storyline where first the police and Ellery arrest one suspect, based on "airtight" deductions on EQ's part, then they find out, oh, they were wrong, and arrest another clown, and then, once again, oh I'm sorry, you were innocent too? (I just finished THE FOURTH SIDE OF THE TRIANGLE where this plot is even more absurdly worked up.)

But in general, THE SIAMESE TWIN MYSTERY may be the best novel I've ever read about a forest fire, as the mountain blazes up and Ellery & company are trapped in the mansion at the very top of the impossibly twisty mountain road--trapped for days while their situation grows increasingly worse. By the end of the book you wonder, how the devil are they ever going to get out to this nightmare?

Who killed John Xavier and why is he clutching half of a playing card--the six of spades--in his vivisectionist hand? Another victim croaks and his last word is "I." Crazy me suspected until long after the book was over, that the killer would turn out to have one of those names, like "Eileen," in which the first syllable would sound like "I." After Ellery's complicated reasoning in the matter of the "Six of Spades" clue, you will agree that I'm hardly out of line pursuing this ludicrous possibility. It would have made a great 30s movie, with Charles Laughton as Xavier, Judith Anderson as his wife, Dolores del Rio as Marie Carreau, Freddie Bartholomew (and himself) as the twins, Alice Faye as Ann Forrest the comely companion, and perhaps lean, saturnine Raymond Massey as Mark Xavier, the doctor's shady brother. Oh, and Sydney Greenstreet as the threateningly fat lump, "Smith." (Didn't you think "Smith" was going to turn out to be the first husband of Sarah Xavier? Whatever happened with that line of questioning? It seems Ellery and his dad, Inspector Richard Queen of the NYPD, just accept Mrs. Xavier's assurances that her first husband was not a factor in this crime. Well, check, boys!)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Weak reasoning, strong story, well worth reading. May 24 2006
By drkhimxz - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I agree with the fine review which leads the list for this book save in one particular. While making for tension necessary to keep the reader moving, I felt Ellery was led by his two Brooklyn creators into some less than sterling reasoning. However, despite that, this is a fine story that should provide readers (or listeners to the excellent audiobook production)with hours of entertainment.

Readers of other early Ellery Queen mysteries (this is from 1933) can be assured that the authors had already begun to flesh out a more human and less thinking machine character for the durable hero of books, film, radio, and televison (which probably did the best job of translating the original books into dramatic form with Bob Hutton (Ellery), David Wayne (Inspector Queen)leading a strong cast which always included interesting guest stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
One of Queen's best! Oct. 16 2007
By Patrick W. Crabtree - Published on
This is sort of a strange story, but I think that such can be said of most Ellery Queen mysteries. In any event, I've read them all and this is one of the three best that "the two cousins," (Nathan, a.k.a. "Dannay," and, Lepofsky, a.k.a. "Lee"), ever wrote.

Ellery and his dad, Inspector Queen of the NYPD, are enjoying a much-needed touring vacation through the Western U.S. They get lost on a rutty backroad when a forest fire breaks out and forces them to a strange old mountaintop mansion. There, they find a renowned physician living in seclusion with a weird parade of family, staff, and guests.

As the fire encroaches each day upon the mountain, the suspense builds and, of course, murder ensues. It's up to Ellery and his dad to sort through the bizarre cast of principals and put the finger on the guilty party.

It would be a bit of a spoiler to reveal the precise nature of the title but, leave it to say, it's one of the strangest facets of the mystery.

Don't pass this one by, even though it's a fairly old volume. It's a superb rendering with lots of atmosphere and detailed clues, both of which are so indigenous to the great Ellery Queen mysteries.
More Great Fun From EQ May 16 2006
By Chris Ward - Published on
This early exemplar of the classic whodunit is almost perfect: a creepy secluded house filled with the weird Dr. Xavier and his oddball family and friends is visited by Ellery and his dad Inspector Queen as they become lost escaping a forest fire (!). What is the Doctor doing up there in the woods anyway? Could it involve... MURDER?? Of course it could, and the presentation of the clues (in drawings and diagrams, as in all the best whodunits) provides charming entertainment. Is the writing a bit pulpy and the plotting a touch creaky? Yes, but that adds to the enjoyment. These early Queens (this one is from 1933) are a kick-- curling up with this one is a treat. (And for those seeking a step up in quality, you can read the first Nero Wolfe, written the same year by Rex Stout: Fer-de-Lance.)

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