About the author: Ellery Queen is a crime fiction pseudonym created in 1929 by Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, and later used by other authors under Dannay and Lee's supervision. Dannay and Lee's main fictional character, whom they also named Ellery Queen, is a mystery writer in New York City who helps his police inspector father solve baffling murders. (from Wikipedia - full article).
- Judge Lewis Shinn
- Johnny Shinn, the Judge's distant cousin
- Laban Hemus, a local farm hand, killed in a fight Joe Gonzoli
- Joe Gonzoli, itinerant farm worker who killed Laban
- "Aunt" Fanny Adams, elderly artist
- Ferriss Adams, her grand-nephew
- Josef Kowalczyk, itinerant
- Judge Andrew Webster
- Roger Casavant, art expert
Locale: Shinn Corners, somewhere in rural New England
Synopsis: New Yorker Johnny Shinn comes to visit his distant cousin, Judge Lewis Shinn. The Judge is the local 'head' of rural Shinn Corner, a small village slowly fading away in the shadow of two larger nearby towns (Comfort and Cudbury). He is preparing to give his traditional Fourth of July oration on the town square.
The Judge tells Johnny of the long-standing animosity between the dwindling local 'Puritans' and outsiders. Years ago, the situation escalated when farm hand Laban Hemus found his girlfriend, Adaline Greave, lying with itinerant farm worker Joe Gonzoli in the hay loft. Enraged, Laban went for Joe with a pitchfork. Joe replied with a knife, killing Laban. The townsfolk wanted vengeance on Joe for killing their native son, but it went to trial and he was acquitted on self-defense.
Now an itinerant farm worker, Josef Kowalczyk, has visited artist "Aunt" Fanny Adams, spillting her firewood in exchange for a meal. When he leaves, she is found dead; and the outrage against outsiders grows. Kowalczyk is brought to a sham trial (intended to calm the locals). The underlying fear is that if he is innocent, one of their own imust be guilty.
Review: The opening is a poignant story of a fading small town, and Ellery Queen describes small town life like no other. My edition has a sketch map of the town and the writer takes us through each street and building introducing the characters.
There is no Ellery Queen, detective in the story. That role is played by Judge Shinn and Johnny Shinn. Their plan to calm the locals and find the killer is clever, although frought with danger. The process of elimination to find the killer is suspenseful, even though it ultimately fails to do so. The answer is found when an outside art expert arrives on the scene.