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Siamese Twin Mystery Hardcover – Jun 1980

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Mystery, But Difficult Solution July 27 2003
By Michael Wischmeyer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In a private waiting room in the prestigious Hotel Chancellor in New York City we encounter a dead man, a victim of a bizarre murder. The man's identity is unknown, even the labels from his clothing has been removed. The victim was completely undressed and then re-dressed in his clothes, but backwards. The furniture, paintings, lamps, and other items in the room has been inverted or reversed. The peeling and seeds of a tangerine (then known as a Chinese Orange) are found in a fruit bowl.

The full title of this Ellery Queen Mystery (April, 1934) is The Chinese Orange Mystery, A Problem in Deduction. I made little progress in solving this mystery. I repeat a hint offered by an earlier reviewer that might benefit the modern reader: a century ago men often used removable stiff collars that could be washed and starched separately, even discarded and replaced, allowing longer use of the dress shirt itself.

The Chinese Orange Mystery makes good reading, but like a good John Dickson Carr mystery of the same period, the solution may be beyond most mortals. But with the hint above, you might unravel a few more threads than I did. Due to the difficulty level, I recommend that the a reader new to Ellery Queen not begin with this particular mystery, but defer it until you are more familiar with his deductive skills.

In recent months I have read and reviewed several Ellery Queen classic mysteries from the 1930s. Ellery Queen today is unfamiliar to many contemporary readers, but I expect that these remarkable deductive mysteries will again become as popular as they were in the 1930s through the 1960s. It may not be easy to locate one of the earlier (1930s) Ellery Queen mysteries, but I assure you that the effort will be rewarded.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Intellectual puzzle Jan. 25 2008
By F. J. Harvey - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Ellery Queen is both author and protagonist of this novel.It is one of a series which started in 1929 with "The Roman Hat Mystery" and as with the(superior in every way)Holmes and Watson tales the story is narrated by an admiring friend ,not the actual protagonist.The book -like all others in the series from this era -is scrupulously fair and shares a feature common to them all ,namely a "challenge to the reader"section which declares the reader is in possession of all the facts and clues required to solve the mystery.It then challenges her/him to do so.

This is a typical Queen tale from the 1930's .A man is murdered while waiting to see a wealthy New York publisher and collector named Donald Kirk,an old friend of Ellery's.The circumstances are bizarre to say the least-the waiting room furniture has been turned back to front ,the door is locked from the inside and the sole clue to the actions of the murdered man is the remains of a Chinese orange (in the UK a tangerine)in the waste bin.The victim's name is not known .There are no clues on his person to identify him and no-one has seen him in the vicinity of the crime .A range of potential suspects are questioned and statements taken probing means ,motive and opportunity,all in the time honoured tradition of the genre.Ellery is aided in the investigation by his father Richard ,a policeman.
The focus of the book is not an character but deduction and detection.Ellery is essentially an intellectual loner , a walking cerebellum .What we get is a locked room mystery with a solution both ingenious and plausible .Stylistically the prose is unremarkable and the characterisation functional if somewhat perfunctory.It does mercifully lack the facetiousness and intellectual showing off of the contemporaneous S S Van Dine books also set in New York society .

This is an ideal book and series for those who favour the traditional whodunnit and howdidhedoit crime novel and if that is your bag then please mentally add another star to my rating.I admire its intellectual rigour but favour the more hardboiled style of crime novel

This is one for those who enjoy and are good at puzzles of all kinds
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
I think it would have worked much better as a short story, quite frankly April 3 2013
By Mary Lavers - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Let me just start by saying that I've long been conflicted about ebooks. I do own an ebook reader and I love that it allows me to read some books sooner than I would otherwise (like with advanced digital copies) but when it comes down to it, I'll always prefer a print copy of any book. I can't think of a single exception. However, I do have to admit that there is a very big advantage to ebooks that I hadn't considered before. Specifically, when classic books that I may have forgotten about are put out by ebook publishers like Open Road Integrated Media, it gives me an excuse to rediscover them all over again.

Enter Ellery Queen.

For those of you who may not know, Ellery Queen is da bomb (do people still say 'da bomb'? No? Whatever, it's still true). Ellery Queen is the name of a detective character from the 1930's and '40's and also the pseudonym of the author (or actually two authors, see below for more). The idea is that Queen himself was writing about his own adventures, though very few of them were written in the first person.

Ellery Queen mysteries were best known for being "fair play" mysteries, meaning that all of the clues the reader would need to solve the crime were presented in the story. There were no endings with the detective saying things like, "Unbeknownst to all of you, the killer left a clue that only I saw." At least not unless the reader saw it too. The novels apparently even have a "Challenge to the Reader" section in which Ellery Queen (the "author") tells the reader that they should have enough clues to solve the crime the way Ellery Queen (the detective) is about to. It's very satisfying for fans of hard boiled detective fiction.

Having said that, this particular story feels like it's a bit longer than it needs to be and the "answer," like the mystery itself, is endlessly convoluted. Plus there's a fair sprinkling of 1930's racism to deal with (sweeping characterizations of the "Oriental race" and loathsome phrases like "that's mighty white of you" for instance). I think it would have worked much better as a short story, quite frankly.

Still, The Chinese Orange Mystery was enough to make me want to check out other classic mystery titles now available as ebooks. I think Open Road Media also has some Dorothy L. Sayers in their collection as well. I wonder if they have any G.K. Chesterton or Wilkie Collins...?

Open Road Integrated Media has not only produced a number of classic Ellery Queen stories as ebooks, they've made a brief documentary video introducing Daniel Nathan (alias Frederic Dannay) and Manford (Emanuel) Lepofsky (alias Manfred Bennington Lee), the two New York cousins who wrote together as Ellery Queen. Nathan and Lee (Man! Even their real names were aliases!) wrote together for over 40 years, creating the novels, short stories and mystery magazine that bore their fictional character's name. (As a child, I had a subscription to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and I LOVVVVVVED it!)

You can watch the video by visiting my blog, Cozy Little Book Journal (or Open Road Media's site).

And just as a personal favour to twelve-year-old me, check out Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It's soooo good (that was twelve-year-old me talking).

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
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!)

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