Siamese Twin Mystery Hardcover – Jun 1980
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|Hardcover, Jun 1980||
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
This is my second Ellery Queen book, and I must confess that I find the stories quite stimulating. I found the story to be quite gripping and characters to be wholly believable. I liked the illustration of the crime scene at the beginning of the book, and the way that the clues were laid out. I really enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it to all mystery fans!
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.
The essence of this story is that an unknown visitor is locked in a waiting room until the person he came to see is free. When the door is unlocked the visitor's head has been smashed in. Every entrance is witnessed the whole time, and no one noticed entering or leaving the room. Bizarrely, the man has been clothed back to front, two ornamental spears from the wall have been shoved through his jacket and trouser legs, and everything movable in the room has been reversed - why? Who is he, why is he there, who killed him, and how and why. I failed utterly with this one, but couldn't help thinking you'd need the brain of an Einstein to devise the method eventually revealed. Still, I enjoyed it for the puzzle, the writing style (the vocabulary and grammar are much more satisfying than Christie's, for example), the characters, and the dialogue - New York in the '30's.
If you enjoy this, try some of the others and, if John Dickson Carr is also new to you, you have a treat in store. Good a writer as Queen was, Carr is on a different plane. His plots are better, his characters as good, his scene-setting on a par with Dickens, and the puzzles as ingenious as Queen's, yet more believable. Read his entry in Wikipedia before trying to find his books.