The Ellery Queen Casebook – Ellery Queen (1977)

CasebookTo be clear, this isn’t The Case Book of Ellery Queen, a short story collection published in 1945.  Rather, this is a strange bit of history that I stumbled upon as part of a bulk Queen purchase a while back – a Reader’s Digest booklet featuring a collection of Ellery Queen stories.  It clocks in at a mere 48 pages, and given that it contains five stories, you can take the “condensed by permission” note on the copyright leaf at more than face value.

Or can you?  The original stories, gathered in Queen’s Bureau of Investigations (QBI) and Queen’s Experiments in Detection (QED) are already brief affairs, most running in the range of six pages each.  Imagine that compressed down a bit, and The Ellery Queen Casebook is a breakneck tattoo of mysteries, with solutions being offered up while the paint is still wet on each premise.

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Four Corners (Volume One) – Theodore Roscoe (1937-1938)

FourCornersMurder on the Way opened a door for me to Theodore Roscoe, a gifted writer who can paint a scene as well as the best of them.  I come to these books for the mysteries, but really, there are authors like John Dickson Carr and Roscoe who can turn a story into a canvas, filling in the gaps between what is merely said and done, rendering scenes that your senses experience.  Roscoe’s one of those authors that you come away wanting to read more of, not so much because of the clever puzzle and twist, but because of the pure story.

Luckily I already had another of Roscoe’s titles on deck: Four Corners, a collection of short stories published in Argosy magazine during the late 30s and brought back to life by Altus Press.  The publisher has released a number of Roscoe’s works over the past few years, although most seem to concern adventures – tales of the foreign legion and far flung lands.  A review at Beneath the Stains of Time confirmed that Four Corners belongs to the mystery camp, and so it seemed like a natural candidate for the gift list.

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Verdict of 13 (1978)

VerdictOf13I’m a big fan of Christianna Brand, considering her not only one of the best puzzle plotters of the Golden Age, but also a top writer of dialogue.  Up to this point, I’ve focused on her novels with the exception of her excellent short story Twist for Twist (which I really should get around to reviewing at some point).  Her short story collections are incredibly difficult to come by in physical form for a reasonable price, but patience has led to me snatching up Brand X and Buffet for Unwelcome Guests rather cheap.  The latter is notable for containing a bibliography towards the rear which lists out all of her short stories (the contents of which seems to have lately made its way to wikipedia).  While skimming through the list of short stories, it caught my eye that a dozen or so weren’t included in any of the Brand short story collections.  It’s the uncollected story Cloud Nine that led me to Verdict of 13.

This anthology was assembled by Julian Symons, who at the time was the president of the famed Detection Club.  Each story within the anthology was written by a member of the club specifically for the anthology, as opposed to this being a collection of pre-existing works.  That makes this an interesting collection, as you’re getting original stories by names as notable of Symons, Brand, Michael Gilbert, Michael Innes, and Ngaio Marsh.  Most of these stories have been published in other collections since, although three seem to still be exclusively available here.

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Poirot Investigates – Agatha Christie (1924)

PoirotInvestigates1As my next step for reading Agatha Christie’s first decade in order, I decided to scoop up Poirot Investigates – a collection of her short stories first published in The Sketch magazine.  I could have gone straight on to her next novel, The Man in the Brown Suit (1924), but it seemed worthwhile to understand what Christie was putting out in the year leading up to it.  The stories of Poirot Investigates were released between March and October of 1923, unless you factor in the three stories included in the US edition, in which case they stretch on an additional month to November.  In that way, this overlaps nicely with my recent reading of The Murder on the Links (1923).

Poirot Investigates doesn’t include all of the short stories that Christie published in The Sketch throughout 1923.  For that, you’d need to factor in Poirot’s Early Cases, which wasn’t released until 1974 (although the stories had already been released in various other collections – The Regatta Mystery, Three Blind Mice, The Under Dog, and Double Sin).  Nor are the stories in order of release; rather, they’re somewhat randomly scattered. Continue reading “Poirot Investigates – Agatha Christie (1924)”

The Quintessence of Queen #2

QuintessenceOfQueen2It’s been a while since I looked at The Quintessence of Queen #1 – an anthology of “best prize stories” from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  It was originally published alongside these entries as part of a larger collection, but my Avon editions find the compilation split in two.  We get some reasonably big names in part two – Nicolas Blake, Helen McCloy, and John Dickson Carr, plus entries by less renowned authors.  Similar to part one, you get a wide range of styles, although not too many of the stories really stand out.  Two of them do though.  Both Carr and Jorge Luis Borges provide excellent entries well worth tracking down.

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The Gentleman From Paris – John Dickson Carr (1950)

GentlemanFromParis

I wouldn’t normally write about a single short story.  At least, I think I wouldn’t.  As much as I love a short mystery, I’ve mostly avoided the form since I started reading through John Dickson Carr’s library.  I know that a few of his shorts share elements with a novel or two, and I’d rather ruin the abbreviated form if it comes to that.  Of course, that shouldn’t keep me from digging into other author’s short stories, but somehow I’ve formed a bit of a habit.

Well, here I am, talking about a short story… by John Dickson Carr no less.  I’ve been making my way slowly through The Quintessence of Queen #2 (#1 is reviewed here), and figured I might as well read the one Carr story contained within.  Suffice to say, it was good enough that I’m actually writing more than a blurb about it.

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The Quintessence of Queen – Edited by Anthony Boucher (1962)

QuintessenceOfQueenI acquired a substantial portion of my Ellery Queen library through bulk purchases of 15-30 books at a time.  Swept up in the tide were several “associated by name only” compilations such as The Quintessence of Queen – assortments of short stories published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and probably tossed into the bundles by some seller who didn’t know much better.

I’m admit I’m a fan of the short story.  As a child I read a fair amount of Ray Bradbury and similar authors who walked the tightrope between science fiction, mystery, and horror.  As an adult, I found my way into the locked room genre via the short story form.  Since going full in with my reading of John Dickson Carr, I’ve stuck to novels based on the knowledge that authors such as him recycled story ideas occasionally – The Gilded Man being a well known example to appear in both short and long form.  Better to ruin a twenty page read than a two hundred page one…

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