The Quirky Mysteries of Ellery Queen

The Quirky Mysteries of Ellery Queen

Even among the quirky authors and colorful pen names of the Golden Age writers, Ellery Queen stands out as a queer duck. The single nom de plume of two cousins — Daniel Nathan (a pseudonym for Frederic Dannay) and Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky (a pseudonym for Manfred Bennington Lee), Ellery Queen is also the primary detective in his own works. His output spans literally hundreds of novels, short stories, movies, radio shows, and television episodes.

Like Willard Huntington Wright’s S. S. Van Dine, the Ellery pen name serves as both the author and the first person narrator of his own books, an intriguing blurring of the literary fourth wall. Unlike Van Dine, Queen has maintained a high profile, including a monthly mystery magazine that continues publication more than 70 years after its interwar launch. By the time of the authors’ deaths over 40 years ago, Ellery’s canon had continued to expand with dozens of sanctioned works by other authors writing under the Queen name.

Queen’s fair-play whodunits cover the best-in-class puzzles of the Golden Age mystery. He focuses on bizarre deaths, impossible murders, confounding tableaus and a healthy scattering of questionable clues. As Christie did to fantastic effect in books like Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express, Queen is practiced at gathering the suspects at the height of the action and presenting more than one possible solution to the crime. Each false scenario is discarded, one at a time, until all clues and deductions point to the only possible explanation. This is Golden Age detective fiction at its purest.

If you like clever puzzles (with eye-catching titles), Queen might become your newest obsession. Need a launching place? Try one of these three classic titles.

The Siamese Twin Mystery

A raging forest fire has Queen, his father and a host of suspects trapped in a mountaintop resort. When the owner turns up dead, Queen gets to work. The solution revolves around a remarkably simple idea that has the plot twisting and pivoting throughout.

Cat of Many Tails

A vicious killer is stalking the citizens of Manhattan. Man or woman, old or young, rich or poor—death plays no favorites. As the body count rises, so does tension and panic across the city. This one is an exciting game of cat and mouse with a sweet twist at the end.

The Adventures of Ellery Queen

Ellery’s style shines in short stories collections like this one. His mysteries need little background, scene setting, or character development to be enjoyed. The reader is free to delight in them for exactly what they are: deliciously constructed puzzles with a tasty twist at the end.

Love a good murder? Be sure to take a stab at Thou Shalt Not Kilt, a traditional Southern whodunnit with Scottish flavor. For my latest news and updates, follow me on Instagram and TikTok. Sign up for Fatal Fiction, my monthly mystery newsletter, and you’ll get a free download of Masters of Murder, my concise guide to the authors of mystery’s Golden Age.

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Masters of Murder by Liam Ashe