There Was an Old Woman Paperback – 1 Jan 1992
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There Was An Old Woman (1943) is a classic Ellery Queen mystery. The reader is challenged to unravel a carefully constructed logical puzzle. The unusual setting, the eccentric characters, and the bizarre murders add spice to the effort. In the final chapters Ellery Queen peels away layers of confusion and misdirection, finally unveiling the culprit. The solution is surprising. Queen's logic, as usual, is convincing.
The Ellery Queen novels were immensely popular during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Paperback editions continued to be widely available in the 1960s and 1970s. Signet Classic Mysteries often packaged two Ellery Queen mysteries together as a double mystery. Later, fifty year commemorative editions were published, beginning in 1979 with the first Ellery Queen novel, The Roman Hat Mystery (1929). Reprints (from HarperPerennial and others) continue to be published today.
I particularly recommend the early Ellery Queen mysteries, especially The French Powder Mystery, The Greek Coffin Mystery, The Egyptian Cross Mystery, The Siamese Twin Mystery, The Chinese Orange Mystery, and The Spanish Cape Mystery.
While I haven't read a great many Ellery Queen novels, I think I'm safe in saying that few of them have a more convoluted path to the ultimate solution, and few stumped Ellery for as long as this one did. Fortunately, the journey is an enjoyable one and the supporting cast is varied and interesting. The Potts household is filled with offbeat characters and Ellery even falls for one of them, which adds an interest element.
This book should please just about anyone looking for a good old-fashioned whodunit. Modern mysteries have largely abandoned this style of novel and I for one enjoy a detective story that focuses primarily on detection instead of police procedure, violence, suspense, and the other elements that are commonly added into the mix (although those can be very enjoyable in their own way as well). I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a good mystery whether you're a first time Ellery Queen reader or a long-time fan.
As was characteristic of his best work, there is a powerful offbeat character at the center of the action. As is customary, this very idiosyncratic person lives in distinctive surroundings among a cast of not quite all there supporting players.
Ellery innocently comes to visit at the inducement of a friend in love with the one reasonably normal person in the place and soon finds himself a second to a participant in a modern day duel. From then on, the initial problem is confounded by complexity and yet more problems arise until Ellery emerges with a conclusion.... or does he.
As always well written, peopled with interesting characters and situations, and with a thread of humor, the book shows no signs of aging, despite the weight of 68 years at this writing. Recommended to all who take to mysteries that offer literacy, problem-solving, and the triumph of good over evil.