The French Powder Mystery – Ellery Queen (1930)

FrenchPowder3My initial experience reading Ellery Queen with The Roman Hat Mystery was a mixed bag, slanting heavily towards disappointment.  I had an exciting start, gobbling up the maps, false forwards, and dramatis personæ preceding the start of the actual story.  The investigation started out fairly interesting, but as the book wore on, I came to the slow uncomfortable realization that investigation was all I was going to get.  The sleuthing and police work was enjoyable enough, but one dimensional.  It was only really at the end when the wheels came off.  The stark reality that 300 pages of interviews, interrogations, and painstaking searches was all for nothing.  There was no twist to satiate my curiosity, no clever misdirection to be unveiled.

Yet, I’m not going to dock an author for a first book, especially one as well respected as the Queens.  The next in line was The French Powder Mystery, and reputation was that it featured a rather notable ending.  Well, actually, I came in knowing exactly what makes the ending notable because I did a bit more blog reading than I should have (a bad habit that I’m trying to ween myself from).  Fortunately, I didn’t learn anything that ultimately detracted from my experience.

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The Roman Hat Mystery – Ellery Queen (1929)

RomanHatMysteryFor over a month I’ve had a tall stack of Ellery Queen books staring at me out of the corner of my eye.  It would be easy (perhaps advisable) to dive in with The Greek Coffin Mystery, commonly regarded as Queen’s best.  But no, I’ve made the decision to tackle them in order (an effort which JJ at the Invisible Event proactively cribbed from me).  This makes my path perilous – The Roman Hat Mystery doesn’t seem to be that well regarded.  In fact JJ flat out panned it several months back.

The criticism didn’t affect me though – I was excited to get started with such a well regarded author(s) with a massive backlog of enticing titles.  And what a start it was…

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To Be Read – Ellery Queen edition

Alternative title – what you can accomplish with $70 on eBay.

If there’s one thing I love about John Dickson Carr besides the quality of his work, it’s the quantity.  70+ titles to look forward to.  Sure, the quality ebbs and flows a bit, but I’ve yet to encounter a title that I regret reading.  I’m sure I’ll encounter a few late career ones eventually, but when my worst reads so far are The Lost Gallows, The Demoniacs, and My Late Wives, you know the author is doing something right.

There are undoubtably many GAD authors who produced a string of high quality works – Christianna Brand seems like an obvious example.  Yet her entries into the mystery genre are less than 10.  How many authors like Carr do you get who provide such high quality and sustain it for 30+ novels?  Agatha Christie is a definite qualifier.  The other author(s) likely to come to your mind is Ellery Queen.

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