The Tragedy of Y – Barnaby Ross (1932)

TheTragedyOfY2Ok Ellery Queen, you finally won me over.  I’ve been your critic up to now, but from this day forward, some part of me will always be your fan.  The Tragedy of Y did something for me that none of your books have ever accomplished – it kept me engaged from cover to cover.  More importantly, this is the one that’s sticking with me for a long time to come.

I recently abandoned my attempt to read Ellery Queen in order because it was just plain boring.  The four first period stories that I made it through were dry, overly long, and never really paid off in the end.  The same could be said for The Tragedy of X – my one encounter with Queen writers’ alter-ego Barnaby Ross.  Published in 1932 (the same year as The Greek Coffin Mystery and The Egyptian Cross Mystery), The Tragedy of X was a marathon of exhaustive police work and… weirdness.  You see, the amateur detective of the series, Drury Lane, is an odd character.  An actor residing in a storybook castle situated on the Hudson river, Lane exists somewhat outside of the realm of standard Golden Age reality.  His gnome-like servants, his positioning as a 60 year old adonis,… I really have no clue what the authors were going for.

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The Tragedy of X – Barnaby Ross (1932)

TheTragedyOfXIs it possible to fall in love with a book?  No, not the novel contained within, but the physical object itself.  I have two copies of The Tragedy of X, and if I were to go purely by cover, I’d have read my Avon copy (the publishing year of which I haven’t been able to figure out).  This time though, I was lured beyond the cover by the pure beauty of the corpus itself.  My Pocket Book edition is the seventh printing (from October of 1942), and it is a beauty to behold.  The pages are the very definition of paper thin – the writing, and in some cases the imprint of the printing itself, is clearly visible through each page.  The feeling is incomparable to any other book I possess – the most desperate analogy that I can conjure is that of silk.  In that sense, this has been a pure joy to hold, and I’ve savored the mere turn of each page.

Ah, but as to what those pages hold…

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