Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Queen's Full - Ellery Queen

First published 1965; cover shown is the 1971 Penguin Books (UK) paperback edition. Cover design by Goodwin/Sorrell. 157 pages.

One of the many Ellery Queen collections, Queen's Full features three novelettes and two short "shorts": The Death of Don Juan, E = Murder, The Wrightsville Heirs, Diamonds in Paradise and A Case Against Carroll.

Each of the cases demonstrate Ellery's masterful ability to solve crime; in one case he emulates Christie's Hercule Poirot when he solves a crime by simply thinking about it.

The Death of Don Juan concerns the death of a perverted, aging stage actor, stabbed in the back with a prop knife. His last words are "The heroine", and Ellery must take a trip to the hardware store to prove that the heroine of the play was not, in fact, the killer.

In E = Murder the murder of a physicist is solved in less than five minutes by interpreting a symbol scratched on paper. And in Diamonds in Paradise the theft of a Broadway queen's diamonds is solved after Ellery simply listens to his father, Inspector Richard Queen of the New York Police Department, explain the case.

A Case Against Carroll was the most original story in the collection. Young lawyer John Carroll is accused of murder, with all the evidence pointing his way. Ellery hears of the case through his father, and is intrigued. Something just doesn't add up and he feels certain Carroll is innocent. Soon he is racing against time to save Carroll from the electric chair. When another murder is uncovered it doesn't take long for Ellery to finally realise the truth... but it's not the truth he'd searched for.

My favourite in the collection - The Wrightsville Heirs - is a classic crime story of a large fortune, selfish children, a hastily changed will, and (of course) murder. When Bella Livingstone is smothered to death in her bed, she leaves three adult stepchildren and a million dollars behind... and also Amy, Bella's companion who has inherited the lot. Ellery realises that Amy is the next target, and he's right.

Ellery Queen was the pseudonym of Manfred B. Lee (1905 - 1971) and Frederic Dannay (1905 - 1982), two cousins who joined forces to create one of the most enduring of all literary detectives. Their collaboration started when, aged 23, they entered a story competition in a magazine, and won. They then abandoned their business careers and devoted the rest of their lives to writing - and founding a publishing empire, including the still-successful 'Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine'.

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