This important book collects not only the unfinished TRAGEDY OF ERRORS but the long fugitive novelette TERROR TOWN from the 1950s, both of them essential items for the Queen Canon. There's also a spattering of minor short stories involving the Puzzle Club, the sort of thing some people love but I don't. I hate that stuff and it's here in spades. There's even one story, "The Reindeer Clue," which Dannay farmed out to another writer, and it's as good or bad as the others, but what could be the justification of printing this piece in the book if it's not even by Queen?
The whole story of Queen's employment of ghost writers still sticks in my craw. Here we have two sons of Dannay arguing that, because three of the final Queen novels were not entirely written by others, they should be moved up higher in the canon. What temerity! The book is filled with tributes to Frederic Dannay's character, judgment, kindness, editorial prowess, but here and there you get an uncanny sense that these two cousins early on sold their birthright to the highest bidder and that this, their secret flaw, came to overshadow all their other achievements. They were already (1930s) doing fifty times better than the average detective story writer, but they were greedy, or something, and before you knew it they were publishing the work of others--that they had bought with money--under their name--inferior work, work that eventually diluted the brand name beyond repair.
In fact I don't think it was greed precisely that motivated these men, but something deeper and darker entirely which has yet to be revealed--some sort of anxiety complex. They had to be number one, and Lee felt threatened by Dannay in multifold ways so Dannay was always compromising to satisfy his cousin. "Terror Town," like the other mid-1950s stories that foretold Lee's eventual collapse, is filled with political and social paranoia a la THE GLASS VILLAGE, INSPECTOR QUEEN'S OWN CASE, AND ON THE EIGHTH DAY--it's the story of a religious right bringing a new age of darkness to a little, insular community. I didn't guess the solution, and the novelette would have been a complete triumph if it didn't suffer from a really, really bad romantic matchup that sort of sinks the enterprise. As for THE TRAGEDY OF ERRORS, I don't know, it might have been OK, but to me it feels like leftovers from THE FOURTH SIDE OF THE TRIANGLE and FACE TO FACE. (The name of the victim, "Morna," seems like yet another working out of the anagram plot of the former--Ramon--Norma--Morna, anyone?) While Morna's extreme horribleness seems like a further turning of the misogynist screws of FACE TO FACE--if a woman if awful enough, readers won't care if she's killed. Highly recommended, especially for Queen lovers, and yet not a patch on the other Crippen and Landru volume, the incredibly excellent ADVENTURE OF THE MURDERED MOTHS which, at any rate, is 100 per cent Queen--the real Queen.