Monday, September 17, 2018

The Tragedy of Z by Barnaby Ross (Ellery Queen) 1933

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About the author/series: Barnaby Ross is a pseudonym of Ellery Queen. This is the third of four books in the Drury Lane series, the remaining three being The Tragedy of X, The Tragedy of Y, and Drury Lane's Last Case.

Major characters:

  • Inspector Thumm, retired and now a private investigator
  • Patience "Patty" Thumm, his daughter, and our narrator
  • Governor Walter Bruno, former district attorney
  • John Hume, current district attorney
  • Aarow Dow, convict at Algonquin Prison
  • Elihu Clay, owner of Clay Marble Quarry
  • Dr. Ira Fawcett, his silent partner
  • Honorable Joel Fawcett, Ira's brother, a state senator
  • Jeremy Clay, Elihu's son
  • -- Carmichael, Joel Fawcett's secretary
  • Drury Lane, retired Shakespearean actor
Locale: Leeds, NY

Synopsis:

Elihu Clay is suspicious of his silent partner, Dr. Ira Fawcett; believing he is behind possible corruption in getting state contracts for materials from his quarry. Clay hires private investigator Thumm to look into it. Thumm and his daughter, Patience (our narrator) travel to the Clay mansion in Leeds, NY. Soon after their arrival, Senator Joel Fawcett is found stabbed to death in his library. He had been receiving threats from prisoner Aaron Dow, who had been released earlier that same day.

Review:

It is refreshing to have a woman narrator appear - Patience Thumm. Her point of view adds a new element to the series. 

In the Author's Note, it is poignant to read the teaser "In the intervening period [between Tragedy of Y and Tragedy of Z] Drury Lane solved many strange and perplexing cases, the more interesting of which will be recorded at some future time." It is sad that prediction did not come to pass, and we must be content with only four titles in the series.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Tragedy of X by Barnaby Ross (Ellery Queen) 1932

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About the author/series: Barnaby Ross is a pseudonym of Ellery Queen. This is the first of four books in the Drury Lane series, the remaining three being The Tragedy of Y, The Tragedy of Z, and Drury Lane's Last Case.

Major characters:

  • Harley Longstreet, a broker
  • John O. DeWitt, his partner
  • Mrs. Fern DeWitt, John's wife
  • Miss Jeanne DeWitt, their daughter
  • Louis Imperiale, a foreign visitor
  • Michael Collins, a politician
  • Charles Wood, a streetcar conductor
  • Juan Ajos, consul from Uruguay
  • Martin Stopes, organized a mining expedition in Uruguay
  • William Crockett, one of the mining speculators
  • Walter Bruno, district attorney
  • Inspector Thumm
  • Drury Lane, retired Shakespearian actor
  • Quacey, his familiar

Locale: New York City

Synopsis:

Drury Lane, retired actor, maintains a lavish Shakespearean-themed estate on the Hudson River north of New York City. District Attorney Walter Bruno and Inspector Thumm consult him on a puzzling case.

Broker Harley Longstreet and a handful of friends took a crosstown Manhattan streetcar on a rainy night. He put his hand in his pocket, immediately collapses and dies. A cork ball loaded with poisoned needles is found in the pocket. The authorities narrow the suspects to those on the streetcar. Each companion is investigated for motive, the leading suspect being his partner, John O. DeWitt, known for having an affair with Longstreet's wife, Fern; as well as making advances to their daughter, Jeanne.

An anonymous letter arrives, promising information about the killer, who they term "X". On the way to meet with the writer aboard the NJ/NY ferry, a man is killed - Charles Wood, the conductor of the streetcar. John DeWitt happens to be on board, and the only passenger who was also on the streetcar that night.

Drury Lane investigates to find the killing has its roots in a earlier mining syndicate in Uruguay, comprising Martin Stopes, William Crockett, Longstreet, and DeWitt.

Review:

I read the four Barnaby Ross books periodically to immerse myself in the eccentric world of Drury Lane in his Hudson estate, the same environs of Philo Vance of the S. S. Van Dine series. I been been fortunate in finding copies of all four. The novel is straight police procedural, until the police get bogged down and resort to consulting Drury Lane. Several obvious suspects, but they, of course, turn out to be red herrings. Lane uses his theatrical skills to engage in some sleuthing of his own and find the ulterior motive behind the murder. As always, reading the four books in the proper order (Tragedy of X, Tragedy of Y, Tragedy of Z, Drury Lane's Last Case) is always recommended, as each tends to refer to previous exploits. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Endless Night by Agatha Christie (1967)




Major Characters:
  • Michael Rogers, narrator
  • Fenella "Ellie" Guteman, a.k.a. Ellie Goodman
  • Cora Van Stuyvesant, her stepmother
  • Andrew Lippincott, an attorney, her uncle
  • Frank Barton, her uncle
  • Greta Andersen, Ellie's companion and assistant
  • Claudia Hardcastle, a neighbor
  • Rudolf Santonix, architect, brother to Claudia Hardcastle
  • Mrs. Esther Lee, a fortune-telling gypsy
  • Major Phillpot
Locale: England

Synopsis: Michael Rogers, our narrator, is a wanderer who picks up odd jobs, mostly driving wealthy people in Europe. He is curious about an estate auction of an abandoned, run down property and runs into "Ellie" Guteman on the property. They fantasize about buying it. They marry and do so, despite warnings of a curse by gypsy Esther Lee. It turns out Ellie is quite wealthy.

They commission their dream house from ailing architect Rudolf Santonix, who hopes to complete it before his death. Michael and Ellie move in and try to keep the grasping relations at bay.

Ellie is found dead from an apparent riding accident. More tragedies quickly follow. Are they the result of the curse?

Review: A slow start to this novel as much time is spent with organizing and placating the relatives. Ellie is found dead, and everything unravels from there. There is a startling twist to the plot as additional deaths follow quickly. I did not see the twist coming, and it completely turns the plot on end. An exciting read.

Also see these reviews on The Passing Tramp and My Reader's Block