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- Published on Amazon.com
The two cousins who wrote as "Ellery Queen" were born in 1905, and for their centennial the estimable specialty house Crippen & Landru have come out with a book of some radio plays they wrote in the late 30s and early 40s, the peak years for the great detective. Crippen & Landru issued an outline for a final, unfinished novel (A TRAGEDY OF ERRORS) which is marvelous to have, but this volume is a quantum leap more satisfying and a fantastic addition to the Queen corpus.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE LAST MAN CLUB. A play involving a tontine underwritten by an industrial capitalist tycoon and whose members are mostly Navy veterans who served with the dead son of the tycoon. One of the members is hit by a car while crossing the street, and Ellery's hot on the case.
THE ADVENTURE OF NAPOLEON'S RAZOR will appeal to everyone who loves trains, especially guys with model railroading replicas in their basements. Ellery and Nikki try to trap a cunning killer on a train completely sealed off from the outside world.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BAD BOY. Did a little boy really poison his aunt's stew with arsenic? Ellery and Nikki have to face down the possibility that even a young 10 year old may do evil in the name of love. This one is extremely far-fetched, but persuasive.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE MARCH OF DEATH. When old man March gets bumped off he tries to leave a clue by carving it into his desk with the very knife that stabbed him! Then the killer erases the dying message. You won't feel a thing for any of these people, they're all despicable, but just try to figure out the solution!
THE ADVENTURE OF THE HAUNTED CAVE. Set high in the Adirondacks, HAUNTED CAVE has a spooky story to tell. A ghost hunter is slain inside the wooden door of a cave. The only footprints leading to his body are his own. It seems almost sure that Montague is the victim of a hundred-year old ghost. Almost a Henry Merrivale sort of crime for Ellery.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE LOST CHILD. This case will remind readers of several other well-covered but much more recent true crime stories (Susan Smith, Andrea Yates, etc). The depravity of the murders in this radio play goes considerably beyond anything Queen was writing in his novels at the time. I would have thought the ad agencies would have hesitated before sponsoring this one, it's awfully trenchant.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLACK SECRET. Some mystery lovers get all lovey dovey around mysteries set in bookstores with rare book dealers as victims or suspects. This is one of those cases. It isn't my favorite, but I like having Mike Callahan-a rival sleuth-feature in Ellery's cases, and the set-up when Ellery gets arrested on suspicion of shoplifting had me laughing my ass off.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE DYING SCARECROW. I wonder which came first, this macabre play of the countryside's changing seasons and the chainsaw-crazy family who lives on the farm, or maybe Joel Townsley Rogers' novel THE RED RIGHT HAND? Read this one and tell me you don't flash on the Townsley Rogers book.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE WOMAN IN BLACK. A British novelist with a family ghost has grown up believing that if the ghostly woman in black appears to him three times, then he will die. Ellery tries to intervene, but the facts of the case baffle him. Oscar Wilde plays a surprising part in this tale, and the story has atmosphere to burn. This must be the last of the hourlong radio plays, because the remainder of the bunch are much shorter.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE FORGOTTEN MEN. This play takes up the theme of the homeless, but the characterization is pretty dismal. I couldn't tell the difference between the five main characters, Manhattan, Dixie, Yank, Kansas and California. They're all derelicts living in an abandoned lot in New York City.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE MAN WHO COULD DOUBLE THE SIZE OF DIAMONDS. Funny how many Ellery Queen plots depend on strip searching a guy (here, a phony inventor called Doctor Lazarus) and examining every body cavity no matter how indelicate. Something a little kinky there, but that's fine by me.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE DARK CLOUD. The "Dark Cloud" is a yacht on which members of the Valentine family are hosting a swim party and a rousing round of charades. Murder ensues and once again, literary texts function as the database of clues. The dying message here wouldn't have stumped a dolphin.
THE ADVENTURE OF MR. SHORT AND MR, LONG. This is Ellery Queen's version of the famous Sherlock Holmes reference to "Mr. James Phillimore who stepped into his house for an umbrella and was never more seen in this world." Wonder if John Dickson Carr knew this play when he did his own version (with Adrian Conan Doyle) in their book of EXPLOITS? For the two stories share some key points.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE MURDERED MOTHS. Ellery and the gang invade what seems to be some sort of Marjorie Main EGG AND I motel for hillbillies, and meet up with an eloping couple of youngsters. Nikki offers to stand in as bridesmaid for the girl, but then it is discovered that she, Virginia Wender, is underage. Virginia's father gets killed, but not for the reason you'd think! The moths tell the tale . . .
I hated to see this book come to an end. Please, publishers, issue a sequel! If there are 350 of these plays extant, you could do a book every year for the next ten or twenty years! Don't leave us on such a teasing note! These plays bring us the best of Ellery Queen-his wit, his inventiveness, his love of humanity, his spectral note, his innate American spirit, and most of all, the brain teasers that made his name famous for decades. And Nikki Porter too, far less annoying here than in some of the books. Now I realize I should have paid more for the hardcover edition, in which you get an extra play for your money!