Friday, February 13, 2015
The Dutch Shoe Mystery by Ellery Queen (1931, Grosset & Dunlap)
Published in 1931, The Dutch Shoe Mystery is the third book in the Ellery Queen series, jointly written by cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee, under the pen-name of Ellery Queen. The series was considered one of the finest examples of a ‘fair play’ mysteries, with the reader presented with all of the clues available to the fictional detective so that they might solve it for themselves. Indeed, the book includes a ‘challenge to the reader’ page inserted near the end of the book, prior to the denouement, that asks them to try and identify the killer based on the clues revealed in the plot. The Dutch Shoe Mystery is a variation on the locked room mystery in that one of the workers, patients or visitors within the vicinity of the pre-op room must have perpetrated the crime and was almost certainly still present on its discovery. And the investigation soon reveals plenty of people present with the motive to murder the victim. The strength of the story is the intricate plot, which charts the detective’s investigation and reasoning. However, this offset somewhat by the dryness of the read, the fact that Ellery Queen is quite a difficult character to warm to, being somewhat aloof, snobbish and self-obsessed, and the fact that whole premise felt somewhat contrived in order to produce the puzzle. Nonetheless, an interesting read for the puzzle and challenge of solving it.