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Ellery Queen Mystery Novels
Daniel Nathan, professionally known as Frederic Dannay (1905 – 1982), and Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky, professionally known as Manfred Bennington Lee (1905 – 1971), were American cousins from Brooklyn, New York who wrote, edited, and anthologized detective fiction under the pseudonym of Ellery Queen. The writers’ main fictional character, whom they also named Ellery Queen, is a mystery writer and amateur detective who helps his father, Richard Queen, a New York City police inspector, solve baffling murders. During the 1930s and much of the 1940s, that detective-hero was possibly the best known American fictional detective. Movies, radio shows, and television shows were based on Dannay and Lee’s works.
Frederic Dannay, without much involvement from Lee, was founding and directing editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, generally considered one of the most influential English-language crime fiction magazines of the last sixty-five years. They were also prominent historians in the field, editing numerous collections and anthologies of short stories such as ‘The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes’. Their 994-page anthology for The Modern Library, 101 Years’ Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories, 1841–1941, was a landmark work that remained in print for many years. Under their collective pseudonym, the cousins were given the Grand Master Award for achievements in the field of the mystery story by the Mystery Writers of America in 1961.
The fictional Ellery Queen was the hero of more than 30 novels and several short story collections, written by Dannay and Lee and published under the Ellery Queen pseudonym. Dannay and Lee also wrote four novels about a detective named Drury Lane using the pseudonym Barnaby Ross. They allowed the Ellery Queen name to be used as a house name for a number of novels written by other authors from outlines provided by Dannay, most of them published in the 1960s as paperback originals and not featuring Ellery Queen as a character.
According to critic Otto Penzler, “As an anthologist, Ellery Queen is without peer, his taste unequalled. As a bibliographer and a collector of the detective short story, Queen is, again, a historical personage. Indeed, Ellery Queen clearly is, after Poe, the most important American in mystery fiction.” British crime novelist Margery Allingham wrote that Ellery Queen had “done far more for the detective story than any other two men put together”.
Although Frederic Dannay outlived his cousin by ten years, the Ellery Queen authorial name died with Manfred Lee. The last Ellery Queen novel, A Fine and Private Place, was published in 1971, the year of Lee’s death. However, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, now published by Dell Magazines, continues as an almost monthly crime fiction magazine as of 2015, publishing ten issues per year including two “double issues.”
Ellery Queen was created in 1928 when Dannay and Lee entered a writing contest sponsored by McClure’s Magazine for the best first mystery novel. They decided to use as their collective pseudonym the same name that they had given their detective. Inspired by the formula and style of the Philo Vance novels by S. S. Van Dine, their entry won the contest, but before it could be published, the magazine closed. Undeterred, the cousins took their novel to other publishers, and ‘The Roman Hat Mystery’ was published in 1929. According to H. R. F. Keating, “Later the cousins took a sharper view of the Philo Vance character, Manfred Lee calling him, with typical vehemence, ‘the biggest prig that ever came down the pike’.”
‘The Roman Hat Mystery’ established a reliable template: a geographic formula title (The Dutch Shoe Mystery, The Egyptian Cross Mystery, etc.); an unusual crime; a complex series of clues and red herrings; multiple misdirected solutions before the final truth is revealed, and a cast of supporting characters including Ellery’s father, Inspector Richard Queen, and his irascible assistant, Sergeant Velie. What became the most famous part of the early Ellery Queen books was the “Challenge to the Reader.” This was a single page near the end of the book declaring that the reader had seen all the same clues Ellery had, and that only one solution was possible. According to novelist/critic Julian Symons, “The rare distinction of the books is that this claim is accurate. There are problems in deduction that do really permit of only one answer, and there are few crime stories indeed of which this can be said.”
The fictional detective Ellery Queen is the author of the books in which he appears (The Finishing Stroke, 1958) and the editor of the magazine that bears his name (The Player On The Other Side, 1963). In earlier novels he is a snobbish Harvard-educated intellectual of independent means who wears pince-nez glasses and investigates crimes because he finds them stimulating. He supposedly derived these characteristics from his mother, the daughter of an aristocratic New York family, who had married Richard Queen, a bluff, man-in-the-street New York Irishman, and who dies before the stories began. From 1938, Ellery spends some time working in Hollywood as a screenwriter (in The Four of Hearts and The Origin of Evil), and solves cases with a Hollywood setting. At this point, he has a slick façade, is part of Hollywood society and hobnobs comfortably with the wealthy and famous. Beginning with ‘Calamity Town’ in 1942, Ellery becomes less of a cypher and more of a human being, often becoming emotionally affected by the people in his cases, and at one point quitting detective work altogether. ‘Calamity Town’, two sequels, and some short stories are set in the imaginary town of Wrightsville, and subsidiary characters recur from story to story; Ellery relates to the various strata of American society as an outsider. However, after his Hollywood and Wrightsville periods, he is returned to his New York City roots for the remainder of his career, and is then seen again as an ultra-logical crime solver who remains distant from his cases. In the very late novels, he often seems a near-faceless, near-characterless persona whose role is purely to solve the mystery. So striking are the differences between the different periods of the Ellery Queen character that Julian Symons advanced the theory that there were two “Ellery Queens”—an older and younger brother.
Ellery Queen is said to be married and the father of a child in the introductions to the first few novels, but this plot line is never developed and Ellery is mainly portrayed as a bachelor. The character of Nikki Porter, who acts as Ellery’s secretary and is something of a love interest, was encountered first in the radio series. Nikki’s curiosity and her attempts to encourage Ellery to work as a detective are responsible for a number of radio and film plots from the early 1940s. Her first appearance in a written story is in the final pages of There Was An Old Woman (1943), when a character with whom Ellery has had some flirtatious moments announces spontaneously that she’s changing her name to Nikki Porter and going to work as Ellery’s secretary. Nikki Porter appears sporadically thereafter in novels and stories, linking the character from radio and movies into the written canon. The character of Paula Paris, an agoraphobic gossip columnist, is linked romantically with Ellery in one novel, ‘The Four of Hearts’, and in short stories during the Hollywood period, but does not appear in the radio series or films, and soon vanished from the books. Ellery is not given any serious romantic interests after Nikki Porter and Paula Paris disappear from the books.
The Queen household, an apartment in New York shared by the Queens father and son, also contains a houseboy named Djuna, at least in the earliest novels and short stories. This young man, who may be of gypsy origin, appears periodically in the canon, apparently ageless and family-free, in a supporting role as cook, receiver of parcels, valet, and as occasional minor comedy relief. He is the principal character in some, not all, of the juvenile novels ghost-written by other writers under the pseudonym Ellery Queen, Jr.
The Queen novels are examples of the classic “fair play” whodunit mystery, and are textbook examples of what became known as the “Golden Age” of the mystery novel. Because the reader obtains clues in the same way as the protagonist detective, the book becomes an intellectually challenging puzzle. Mystery writer John Dickson Carr termed it “the grandest game in the world”.
The early Queen novels were characterized by intricately plotted clues and solutions. In ‘The Greek Coffin Mystery’ (1932), ‘The Siamese Twin Mystery’, and others, multiple solutions to the mystery are proposed, a feature that also showed up in later books such as ‘Double, Double’ and ‘Ten Days’ Wonder’. Queen’s “false solution, followed by the truth” became a hallmark of the canon. Another stylistic element in many early books (notably ‘The Dutch Shoe Mystery’, ‘The French Powder Mystery’ and ‘Halfway House’) is Ellery’s method of creating a list of attributes (the murderer is male, the murderer smokes a pipe, etc.). Then, by comparing each suspect to these attributes, he reduces the list of suspects to a single name, often an unlikely one.
By the late 1930s, when Ellery Queen – author and character – moved to Hollywood to try movie scriptwriting, the tone of the novels began to change along with the detective’s character. Romance was introduced, solutions began to involve more psychological elements, and the “Challenge to the Reader” vanished from the books. Some of the novels also moved from mere puzzles to more introspective themes. The three novels set in the fictional New England town of Wrightsville, starting with ‘Calamity Town’ in 1942, even showed the limitations of Ellery’s methods of detection. According to Julian Symons, “Ellery … occasionally lost his father, as his exploits took place more frequently in the small town of Wrightsville … where his arrival as a house guest was likely to be the signal for the commission of one or more murders. Very intelligently, Dannay and Lee used this change in locale to loosen the structure of their stories. More emphasis was placed on personal relationships, and less on the details of investigation.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, the authors tried some more experimental work, especially in three novels written by other writers, all based on detailed outlines by Dannay. ‘The Player on the Other Side’, ghost-written by Theodore Sturgeon, delves more deeply into motive than most Ellery Queen novels. ‘And on the Eighth Day’ (1964), ghost-written by Avram Davidson, was a religious allegory touching on fascism. Davidson also wrote ‘The Fourth Side of the Triangle’.
Toward the end of their careers, the cousins allowed some crime novels, mainly paperback originals, to be written by various ghostwriters under the Ellery Queen name. These books did not feature the character Ellery Queen as the protagonist. They included three novels featuring “the governor’s troubleshooter”, Micah “Mike” McCall, and six featuring private eye Tim Corrigan. The prominent science-fiction writer Jack Vance wrote three of these original paperbacks, including the locked room mystery A Room to Die In.
There are also several collections of Ellery Queen short stories. These were praised by Julian Symons as follows “…in some ways the short story is better suited than the novel to this kind of writing… This is notable especially in the case of Ellery Queen. The best of his short stories belong to the early intensely ratiocinative period, and both The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1934) and The New Adventures (1940) are as absolutely fair and totally puzzling as the most passionate devotee of orthodoxy could wish… Every story in these books is composed with wonderful skill.
Note: Most of the blue Langtail Press editions were available in ebook formats only six months ago, but are currently not available. Expect to see them replaced with the new ebook style in the near future.
Ellery Queen Detective Novels
The Roman Hat Mystery (1929)
Note: Murder in a theatre!
A murder in a crowded theater leaves a pack of suspects, but only one clue. Despite the dismal Broadway season, Gunplay continues to draw crowds. A gangland spectacle, it’s packed to the gills with action, explosions, and gunfire. In fact, Gunplay is so loud that no one notices the killing of Monte Field. In a sold-out theater, Field is found dead partway through the second act, surrounded by empty seats. The police hold the crowd and call for the one man who can untangle this daring murder: Inspector Richard Queen.
With the help of his son Ellery, a bibliophile and novelist whose imagination can solve any crime, the Inspector attacks this seemingly impenetrable mystery. Anyone in the theater could have killed the unscrupulous lawyer, and several had the motive. Only Ellery Queen, in his debut novel, can decipher the clue of the dead man’s missing top hat.
The French Powder Mystery (1930)
Note: Murder on display!
A corpse in a department store window offers a gruesome puzzle for Ellery Queen. The windows of French’s department store are one of New York’s great attractions. Year-round, their displays show off the finest in fashion, art, and home décor, and tourists and locals alike make a point of stopping to see what’s on offer. One afternoon, as the board debates a merger upstairs, a salesgirl begins a demonstration in one of the windows, showing off French’s new Murphy bed. A crowd gathers to watch the bed lower from the wall after a single touch of a button. But as the bed opens, people run screaming. Out tumbles a woman – crumpled, bloody, and dead.
The victim was Mrs. French, wife of the company president, and finding her killer will turn this esteemed store upside down. Only one detective has the soft touch necessary – debonair intellectual Ellery Queen. As Queen and his police inspector father dig into French’s secrets, they find their killer is more serious than any window shopper.
The Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931)
Note: Subtitled: A Problem in Deduction
Queen visits an operating theater to witness a surgery, but finds a murder instead. The son of a police detective, Ellery Queen grew up in a bloody atmosphere. Since he started lending his deductive powers to the New York City homicide squad, he has seen more than his fair share of mangled corpses. Though he is accustomed to gore, the thought of seeing a living person sliced open makes him ill. So when a doctor invites him to sit in on an operation, Queen braces his stomach. As it happens, his stomach is spared, but his brain must go to work.
The patient is Abigail Doorn, a millionairess in a diabetic coma. To prepare her for surgery, the hospital staff has stabilized her blood sugar level and wheeled her to the operating theatre – but just before the first incision, the doctors realize she is dead, strangled while lying unconscious on her gurney. Queen came to the hospital to watch surgeons work, but now it’s his time to operate.
The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932)
Note: Ellery’s first major case!
In one of his earliest cases, Ellery Queen confronts a murder in blue blood. America’s master of deduction, Ellery Queen, has made his name by combining dazzling feats of pure reason with the old-fashioned legwork that comes with being the son of a New York cop. Before he became the nation’s most famous sleuth, he was just an untested talent – a bookworm who thought he might put his genius to work solving crimes. Young Queen made his bones on the Khalkis case.
The scion of a famous New York art-dealing family, Georg Khalkis has spent several years housebound with blindness – a misery he is relieved of when a heart attack knocks him dead on the library floor. After the funeral, his will vanishes, and an exhaustive search of home, churchyard, crypt, and mourners reveals nothing. Baffled, the police turn to a headstrong young genius named Ellery Queen. During this case, Queen develops his deductive method – and swings dramatically between failure and success.
The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932)
Note: A Christmas crucifixion!
The Queens are intrigued when a grisly murder mars a small town’s Christmas. It’s Christmas in Chicago, and Inspector Richard Queen is enjoying a busman’s holiday at a conference on gangland violence – but his son, amateur sleuth Ellery, is bored silly. Until, that is, Ellery reads of an unusual killing in rural Arroyo, West Virginia: A schoolmaster has been found beheaded and crucified. Ellery hustles his father into his roadster and heads east, since there is nothing he’d like better for Christmas than a juicy, gruesome puzzle.
When the Queens arrive in Arroyo, they learn that the victim was an eccentric atheist, but not the sort to make enemies. What initially looks to be the work of a sadistic cult turns out to be something far more sinister. In the months ahead, more victims will turn up all over the world – all killed in the same horrifying manner. It will take several bodies before Queen divines the clue that unlocks the mystery of the Christmas crucifixion.
The American Gun Mystery (1933)
Note: Murder at a wild west show!
When a Western star is gunned down at a rodeo, Ellery Queen saddles up. Buck Horne has roped thousands of cattle, slugged his way out of dozens of saloons, and shot plenty of men dead in the street – but always on the backlot. He is a celluloid cowboy, and his career is nearly kaput. The real box office draw is his daughter, Kit, a brawling beauty who can outshoot any rascal the studio has to offer. Desperate for a comeback, Buck joins Wild Bill Grant’s traveling rodeo for a show in New York, hoping to impress Hollywood and land one last movie contract. But he has scarcely mounted his horse when he falls to the dirt. It wasn’t age that made him slip – it was the bullet in his heart.
Watching from the stands are Ellery Queen, debonair sleuth, and his police detective father. They are New Yorkers through and through, but to solve the rodeo killing, the Queens must learn to talk cowboy.
The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933)
Note: Out of the fire, and into…?
Trapped on a burning mountain, the Queens take refuge with a killer. Dashing detective Ellery Queen and his father are driving over the pothole-scarred Arrow Mountain road when they come face to face with a wall of flame. They tear back in the other direction, fire at their fenders, and finally find safety in a clearing, at the home of Dr. Xavier, a renowned surgeon. He is a genial man, but his distracted, mysterious smile conceals dark secrets. Passing through one of the drafty hallways, Ellery’s father is startled by a pair of eyes burning in the darkness – the eyes of a monster. Could they be trapped on some kind of mountain of Dr. Moreau?
Dr. Xavier introduces them to the rest of his household, including his wife, brother, and medical assistant. Everyone’s welcoming, but they also seem anxious and cagey. When the good doctor is found shot to death in his study, Queen realizes that he and his father have more to fear than a pair of sinister eyes. The Queens may have escaped the forest fire, but they have leapt into a situation that is every bit as hot.
The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934)
Locked Room Review
Note: A classic locked room mystery!
A puzzling publishing murder attracts the eye of Ellery Queen. Mandarin Press is a premier publishing house for foreign literature, but to those at the top of this enterprise, there is little more beautiful than a rare stamp. As Donald Kirk, publisher and philatelist, prepares his office for a banquet, an unfamiliar man comes to call. No one recognizes him, but Kirk’s staff is used to strange characters visiting their boss, so Kirk’s secretary asks him to wait in the anteroom. Within an hour, the mysterious visitor is dead on the floor, head bashed in with a fireplace poker, and everything in the anteroom has been quite literally turned upside down.
The rug is backwards; the furniture is backwards; even the dead man’s clothes have been put on front-to-back. As debonair detective Ellery Queen pries into the secrets of Mandarin Press, every clue he finds is topsy-turvy. The great sleuth must tread lightly, for walking backwards is a surefire way to step off a cliff.
The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935)
Note: A one-eyed gunman?
On a seaside vacation, Ellery Queen is ensnared in a trio of strange crimes. Spanish Cape is a dramatic promontory, its rocky cliffs topped with a picturesque hacienda. This isolated spot belongs to millionaire Walter Godfrey and it should be a peaceful family getaway – but one summer evening, Rosa Godfrey argues with her uncle David as he tries to convince her not to run away with one of their guests, the roguish John Marco. Suddenly, a one-eyed gunman appears out of the twilight. He seems to mistake David for John, and forces the pair to the mainland, where he clubs David on the head and locks Rosa in an empty vacation cottage. The next day, Rosa is rescued by the renowned sleuth Ellery Queen, who had come to the coast for a holiday. For a moment, it seems her luck has changed, but then the universe delivers another crushing blow. John has been found stone dead and stark naked.
This will not be the first working vacation for the unfailingly logical Ellery Queen, but to unravel the mystery of the undressed man, he will have to make sense of what happened on the worst night of Rosa Godfrey’s life.
The Lamp of God (1935) (novelette)
Note: Same story as House of Haunts! See Blogging the Black Lizard 4/8
Originally published as ‘The House of Haunts’ in Detective Story magazine in 1935, then renamed ‘Lamp of God’ when it was included in ‘The New Adventures of Ellery Queen/ (1940), then again released as a stand alone novelette in 1951 as part of Dell’s Dime Novel Series.
‘The House of Haunts’, by Ellery Queen, is the original 1935 story which was later developed into the 1936 novelette, ‘The Lamp of God’. It is one of the darker Queen stories, with an eerie gothic atmosphere reminiscent of a classic Victorian ghost story. Ellery Queen is asked by a lawyer friend to help a young heiress, just arrived from England. Her eccentric father, whom she hasn’t seen since she was a child, has just died, days before she could be reunited with her family and inherit her father’s fabled hoard of gold. The group drives for several hours into the wilds of Long Island, until they reach an ugly and nearly uninhabitable Victorian mansion called ‘The Black House’ – just as night falls. The new arrivals meet the very strange extended family, then bed down in a smaller stone house next to the old mansion. The big surprise arrives the next morning – the ‘Black House’ has simply vanished as though it never existed! This story is an excellent example of the art of locked room illusion and misdirection, and one of the better stories in this anthology.
Halfway House (1936)
Note: Two victims in one?
Not currently available in ebook format.
Inside a run-down shack on the banks of the Delaware River, married Philadelphia door-to-door salesman Joe Wilson lies dying in a cheap, blood-spattered suit, stabbed through the heart by an assailant he describes with his last breath as a mysterious veiled woman. So begins master detective Ellery Queen’s strangest case ever. For Joe Wilson is not one man, but two, each married secretly to a different wife – and in his other life, as New York millionaire Joseph Kent Gimball, he has just changed the beneficiary of a million-dollar life insurance policy. With painstaking brilliance Ellery Queen sifts through a plethora of clues to solve the riddle of the Halfway House murder, beginning with the most important question of all: Whom did the murderer think she was killing, impoverished Wilson or millionaire Gimball? And why?
The Door Between (1937)
Note: Another Queen locked room!
This book was available in ebook format, but is now only available in paperback.
When Ellery Queen first meets the award-winning novelist Karen Leith, it is at a party held to celebrate her most recent prize in literature. The next time he hears of her, she is dead – murdered, so the police suspect, by the daughter of her fiancé, the eminent cancer researcher Dr. John MacClure. With no other suspects and only circumstantial evidence at hand, master detective Ellery Queen delves into the reclusive writer’s past to uncover the startling method and motive of an intricate crime.
Eva Maclure is waiting outside Karen Leith’s room. Initially, she can hear her move about, but when a ringing phone goes unanswered, she enters the room only to discover Leith dead on the floor with her throat cut and no other exits to the room, apart from a door bolted on the inside.
The Devil to Pay (1938)
Note: Murder in Hollywood!
Not currently available in ebook format.
When Hollywood bigwig Solly Spaeth is murdered, thousands cheer. He is a most popular corpse, for Solly’s stock manipulations have ruined many, including his partner. A cut and dried case – or so it appears. Enter master detective Ellery Queen, whose embarrassing questions uncover a maze of conflicting alibis and motives, and ultimately reveal a deadly face lurking beneath the glittering mask of Tinseltown.
The Four of Hearts (1938)
Note: A honeymoon crash!
Not currently available in ebook format.
Ellery Queen’s career as a screenwriter is not going well. He has been “working” at the studio for six weeks before his boss even knows he is there. Then they get drunk and come up with the idea of making a screenplay based on the lives of two actors whose importance was only matched by their personal enmity. But fact soon takes over from fiction when the actors bury the hatchet and get married, only for the plane they hire to take them on honeymoon to crash. Ellery Queen now has a proper case on his hands, and the mysterious playing cards keep on arriving.
The Perfect Crime (1942)
Note: Novel version of a screenplay!
Reworking of ‘The Devil to Pay’ for film.
The Dragon’s Teeth (1939)
AKA: The Virgin Heiresses
Note: Ellery Queen, Confidential Investigations
Ellery Queen joins forces with a new partner to investigate a millionaire’s murder. After the death of his longtime friend Inspector Rummell, Ellery Queen drops in on Rummell’s son, a struggling lawyer named Beau. Before their meal is through, Queen and young Rummell are partners in a newly minted company: Ellery Queen, Confidential Investigations. Rummell promises not to burden Queen with any of the work- he only wants to capitalize on the name of the world-famous amateur sleuth. But when they are hired by an eccentric millionaire who refuses to say just why he wants their services, Rummell has no choice but to turn to Queen for help. And when their client dies at sea, they discover that the wealthy old man had countless enemies who might have put him out of his misery – most of them within his own family.
Calamity Town (1942)
Note: The first Wrightsville novel
Looking for trouble, Ellery Queen descends on a small town. At the tail end of the long summer of 1940, there is nowhere in the country more charming than Wrightsville. The Depression has abated, and for the first time in years the city is booming. There is hope in Wrightsville, but Ellery Queen has come looking for death.
The mystery author is hoping for fodder for a novel, and he senses the corruption that lurks beneath the apple pie façade. He rents a house owned by the town’s first family, whose three daughters star in most of the local gossip. One is fragile, left at the altar three years ago and never recovered. Another is engaged to the city’s rising political star, an upright man who’s already boring her. And then there’s Lola, the divorced, bohemian black sheep. Together, they make a volatile combination. Once he sees the ugliness in Wrightsville, Queen sits back – waiting for the crime to come to him.
There Was an Old Woman (1943)
AKA: The Quick and the Dead
Note: If the shoe fits?
There was an old woman who owned a mammoth shoe company and was worth many millions of dollars. She also had one of the most dysfunctional families imaginable. But when her children began to get killed, it did not make any sense. On one level, the explanation seemed obvious, but surely it could not be as easy as that? As Ellery Queen endeavors to solve the case, he tries to make sense of a family that defies rationality.
The Murderer is a Fox (1945)
Note: Is murder in our genes?
Could the act of murder really be hereditary? Davy Fox certainly thinks so. When he was only a boy, his father, Bayard Fox, was convicted of murdering his mother in the small town of Wrightsville. Now that Davy has grown up and returned home from the war, he fears that it is only a matter of time until he kills his own wife. But could he really do such a thing? Desperate to find out the truth, Davy’s wife Linda calls on Ellery Queen to investigate the twelve year old murder of Jessica Fox.
Ten Days’ Wonder (1948)
Note: What crime?
To help an amnesiac, Ellery Queen must destroy the sick man’s family. Howard Van Horn wakes up in a Bowery flophouse. His knuckles are bruised, his head is bloodied, all his valuables are gone, and he has a strong urge to leap out the window. He has been unconscious for nineteen days – another in a long line of amnesiac episodes that have destroyed this once-promising sculptor. As he comes to grips with this latest blackout, he realizes something awful. The blood on his clothes suggests that another life has been wrecked.
Van Horn goes to an old friend, amateur sleuth Ellery Queen, who works hand in hand with the New York Police Department. Though Queen has solved countless murders, never before has he been asked to determine whether a crime was committed at all. To get to the root of the sculptor’s attacks, Queen forces him to return to Boston, to confront a family secret so dark that Van Horn’s mind destroyed itself rather than face it.
Cat of Many Tails (1949)
Note: Ellery returns to catch a serial killer!
In the dog days of August, it is no surprise to see New Yorkers perspire. But this summer, a killer called the Cat gives the city a new reason to sweat. He selects his victims seemingly at random and strangles them, then escapes without leaving a clue. As the death toll climbs, and the press whips the public into horrified frenzy, Gotham teeters on the edge of anarchy.
The cat had 9 kills. The silent rush of footsteps, the muffled shriek, the ever tightening noose of exotic silk, the mark of the Cat. The Cat had claimed number nine. Ellery found number 10 alive and offered the victim temptingly to the killer. The trap was baited and Ellery and the police poised for the strike that never came. But the strangler struck elsewhere.
Ellery Queen, the brilliant amateur sleuth, has gone into retirement when the Cat begins to kill. As his father, a seasoned homicide detective, leads the investigation into the murder, Ellery tries to avoid getting involved. But as the body count rises, he can no longer resist the urge to hunt. The Queens are known for their curiosity – and everyone knows how curiosity can affect a cat.
Double, Double (1950)
Note: A reclusive millionaire!
Ellery Queen was raised in New York City, but his heart belongs to the village of Wrightsville. An idyllic New England hamlet, it was the site of some of the world-famous detective’s most remarkable investigations. After years of solving murder cases in Wrightsville’s coziest parlors, Queen was sure the community did not have any further mysteries to offer. But an anonymous letter draws him back to the most dangerous small town in America.
Luke MacCaby’s sagging old Victorian mansion sits on the edge of a respectable Wrightsville district as a fading reminder of the area’s long-vanished heyday. When the owner – a seemingly impoverished hermit – passes away, the town is shocked to learn that he was a partner in the local dye works and left behind a fortune worth millions. To find MacCaby’s killer, Queen must peel away the surface of the place he so dearly loves.
The Origin of Evil (1951)
Note: Killed by a dead dog?
Ellery Queen investigates a murderous dead dog in Hollywood. Ellery Queen stands naked by the window, sipping rum from a frosted glass, a corpse at his feet. The deceased is Hollywood, and the cause of death is clear: television. Queen has come to Los Angeles in search of a plot for his latest mystery, but the moribund movie business offers nothing more than nostalgia for better days. He’s about to give up and go home when a pretty girl appears and offers a mystery far stranger than anything a filmmaker has ever produced.
The woman’s name is Laurel, and her father has been murdered by a dead dog. The canine was sent as a gift – 1 in a series of vile, cryptic packages – and it scared her father to death. The deceased pet is the most peculiar murder weapon Queen has ever come across, and unless he’s quick, this story will not have a Hollywood ending.
The King is Dead (1952)
Note: Another Queen locked room!
Ellery Queen and his father discover a baffling murder on a private island.
Ellery Queen and his father are meandering through breakfast when their apartment is invaded. Without making a sound, two men appear in the Queens’ living room, guns drawn, and proceed to search the place. When they’re done, a third man follows: a paunchy little professor-type who happens to be the brother of a king. King Bendigo doesn’t rule a country, but his control of the international arms trade has made him one of the richest men in the world. It’s not surprising that somebody wants him dead.
Bendigo’s brother comes to the Queens to ask them to save the tycoon’s life – but they fail. The king is found dead in a hermetically sealed room, a bullet lodged in his heart. The murder is impossible to solve – that is, for anyone but Ellery Queen.
The Scarlet Letters (1953)
Note: A troubled household!
Martha Lawrence came to Ellery Queen claiming that her husband’s jealousy was putting her in danger. But did the man have grounds for his rage? In order to try and help him understand, Ellery gets his secretary a job in the Lawrence household. Then the unsigned letters begin to arrive and Ellery Queen is dragged all over New York in search of the truth.
The Finishing Stroke (1958)
Note: Christmas is murder?
When a young Ellery Queen is invited to a house party over the holidays, the twelve days of Christmas turn out to be, quite literally, murder. As a series of anonymous gifts are sent with increasing menace, Ellery tries to unravel the mystery of who is sending them. What is their meaning? And what do they have to do with the identity of the murderer? Ellery Queen is flummoxed until decades later he comes across his diary and begins the investigation anew. Can he finally deduce who is the mystery killer?
The Player on The Other Side (1963)
Author: ghost-written by Theodore Sturgeon
Note: A ghoulish bargain?
York Square is a tidy private garden surrounded by four matching castles, each inhabited by a different branch of the York family. There’s Robert, commanding and icy; Myra, gentle and ill; Emily, who would prefer to live in a cottage; and Percival, who has many personal secrets. Watching them all is the gardener, Walt, who sees more than any of them realize. When an anonymous scribe starts sending him letters of praise, Walt is happier than he’s ever been. But when a strange card marked with the letter J heralds the death of Robert, the happy garden begins to wilt.
Unlocking the puzzle of the bizarre notes falls to the legendary Ellery Queen. He finds that the Yorks are locked in a ghoulish bargain – one that can only be escaped by death.
And on the Eighth Day… (1964)
Author: ghost-written by Avram Davidson
Note: One of Queen’s best!
While stranded in the desert, Ellery Queen stumbles across a religious cult. It’s 1943, the war is raging, and sleuthing scribe Ellery Queen wants to do his bit. After a tortuous cross-country drive, he takes a job writing scripts for a Hollywood propaganda house – twelve hours a day of hack work that quickly turns his mind to jelly. After a few weeks, he is so worn down that he can type nothing but gibberish, and he decides to drive home. The trouble starts as soon as he reaches the desert.
His ancient roadster breaks down on the edge of Death Valley. Wandering in search of help, he is saved by a man known as the Teacher, who takes him to an oasis called Quenan. Here, Queen finds a bizarre, reclusive cult that seems to have come straight out of the ancient past. A murder has been committed in the desert, and the Quenanites plan on delivering some Old Testament justice. Queen is just the detective they’ve been waiting for.
The Fourth Side of The Triangle (1965)
Author: ghost-written by Avram Davidson
Note: Killed his mistress?
A murdered fashion designer draws Ellery Queen into a tangled family plot.
Ever since New York was Nieuw Amsterdam, the McKells have been building their fortune. Combining Scottish thrift with American know-how, they built an empire that, by the 1930s, stretched across the globe. No one in the family found more success than Ashton McKell, an entrepreneur who counts his wealth in the hundreds of millions, who smokes twenty cigars a day, and whose only problem is his son Dane, an adventurous soul who shocks his father by giving up business for the disgraceful pursuit of writing. Despite their differences, Dane loves his father. He is shocked when he learns the old man is having an affair – and thunderstruck when Ashton is accused of murder.
When his father’s mistress is found dead, Dane will do anything to free Ashton. And no detective is more suited to this puzzling case of blackmail, lust, and greed than the singular Ellery Queen.
A Study in Terror (1966)
AKA: Ellery Queen vs Jack The Ripper
Note: Ellery Queen and Sherlock Holmes!
Based on the Sherlock Holmes film A Study in Terror, this collaboration between two of the world’s greatest detectives is one of the most original mystery novels of all time. Novelization of a movie of the same name about Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, with Ellery Queen added as a character in the framing story. The Sherlock Holmes part was written by Paul W. Fairman with Dannay/Lee input.
A lost Sherlock Holmes manuscript draws Ellery Queen into a classic case. Ellery Queen is struggling over his latest book when a friend brings him a mystery. It is a journal, written by a Victorian doctor, of reports on the remarkable adventures of his close friend, a brilliant detective named Sherlock Holmes. Queen’s surprise turns to amazement as he turns its pages and discovers the lost story of Sherlock Holmes’s greatest case: the pursuit of Jack the Ripper. From the brothels and back alleys of fog-choked Whitechapel to the manor of one of England’s greatest families, Holmes and Dr. Watson chase history’s most fearsome killer. But it will take the brilliance of Ellery Queen to solve the case once and for all.
Face to Face (1967)
Note: A murderous spouse!
Gloria Guild is the singing ‘Glory’ of the thirties and the millionairess wife of Count Carlos Armando, renowned only for his succession of wealthy wives. When she is murdered, it seems obvious that it must be him, but he has a perfect alibi. So who could he have got to do it for him? The only clue left is the word ‘f a c e’, penned in her dying scrawl. But whose face? And why? Ellery Queen investigates.
The Last Woman in His Life (1970)
Note: A jet set murder in Wrightsville?
From New Year’s in Málaga to Christmas in Hawaii, John Levering Benedict III – or Johnny-B, as everyone calls him – is the crown prince of the jet set. He has three ex-wives, a limitless fortune, and more frequent flier miles than he can count. When Johnny-B tires of life in the sky, he sneaks off to a quiet corner of New England called Wrightsville, where he has purchased a cozy little hideaway. This second home draws him to Ellery Queen – and soon leads Johnny-B to his unfortunate demise.
A rare look at gay relationships from the early 70’s.
A Fine and Private Place (1971)
Note: 9 is the magic number!
Ellery Queen investigates a mobster whose bizarre death is marked by the number 9.
Nino Importuna has a soft face, but when he smiles, it’s terrifying. His Central Park penthouse is lavish, but it was bought with the blood of his enemies. His criminal empire controls mining, electronics, and food – legitimate corporations that he runs with a murderer’s touch. When he catches one of his capos stealing from him, Importuna could either kill the man or send him to prison. Instead, he makes a simple demand: He wants the thief’s daughter to be his wife.
On their fifth wedding anniversary, Importuna signs his fortune over to his young bride. Soon after, the 9-fingered mobster is killed by 9 blows to the head and Ellery Queen receives a 9-letter note that holds the key to the homicide. In the legendary detective’s final case, 9 is the magic number.
Ellery Queen as House Author
For full list of other titles authored by Ellery Queen, but without Ellery Queen appearing see:
There are 34 novels on this list, but this list includes The Perfect Crime with Ellery Queen as the detective, which is included above, though it does not include any of the other novels not directly written by Dannay & Lee, where Ellery Queen appears.
This list also does not include Inspector Queen’s Own Case or The House of Brass where Inspector Queen is the central detective, nor does it include The Glass Village or Cop Out where neither Queen appears!
A correct version of the Ellery Queen House Author list should therefore not include The Perfect Crime, but should include The Glass Village and Cop Out – leaving us with 35 house novels that are not part of the Queen saga!
To complete our list of Queen mysteries there are still the two Inspector Queen titles (see below), also making for a total of 35 novels in the family saga. Here, I am not including the problematic The Glass Village and Cop Out, which appear on most lists of Ellery Queen mysteries, but actually have nothing to do with the Queen family.
In addition, there is another series of four novels, The Drury Lane mysteries, written by Dannay & Lee, under the pseudonym ‘Barnaby Ross’, which includes:
The Queen series therefore contains 35 EQ novels, plus 10 volumes of short stories, and 39 other novels authored by Ellery Queen or Barnaby Ross, where the Ellery Queen character does not appear.
Inspector Queen’s Own Case (1956)
(Inspector Queen only)
Note: Inspector Richard Queen gets his own case.
When unmarried women get into trouble, A. Burt Finner is waiting at the hospital to save them. This greasy-lipped fat man knows all about babies: how to change them, how to feed them – and how to sell them to the highest bidder. He buys low, getting them from their distressed mothers just a few hours after birth, and sells high to millionaires who are unable to have children of their own. When one of these infants dies just a few months after its sale, the new family is shocked by the tragedy. Only the newborn’s nurse recognizes the death as murder.
The nurse reaches out to Inspector Richard Queen, the recently retired father of the legendary amateur sleuth Ellery. Given that his son is out of town, the inspector leaps at a chance to solve this chilling mystery on his own – only to find himself falling head over heels for the baby’s caretaker.
The House of Brass (1968)
(Inspector Queen) Author: ghost-written by Avram Davidson
Note: Inspector Queen gets married!
Ellery Queen is vacationing in Istanbul when he learns that his aging father, the retired police inspector Richard Queen, is getting married to Jessie Sherwood. The world-famous sleuth rushes home to congratulate the happy couple and enjoy the unique experience of giving his father away to the bride. The honeymoon over, Richard and his new wife return home to find an envelope containing a $100 bill and half of a $1,000 bill – a down payment for one of the most puzzling cases the Queen men will ever encounter.
Accompanying the money is a letter from Hendrik Brass summoning Inspector Queen and his spouse to a peculiar vacation in the wilds of New York. Also invited are a con man, a country doctor, a charitable spinster, and a few other disreputable characters who have been assembled for a weekend of murder and mystery they will never forget.