Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Crime & Beyond Book Club Reads Ellery Queen

Kerry Hammond reports to Mystery Playground today from the most recent meeting of the Denver-based Crime & Beyond Book Club. (Don't you just love the book cover above?)

Crime & Beyond met this month to discuss The Greek Coffin Mystery by Ellery Queen. We went with a classic mystery this month, and this book was originally published in 1932. Ellery Queen was a pen name taken by a two-man writing team. The writers behind the books were two cousins from Brooklyn, New York: Daniel Nathan, professionally known as Frederic Dannay and Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky, professionally known as Manfred Bennington Lee.

The duo's writing career spanned over a period of 42 years, and movies, television shows, and radio programs were created based on their work. The Ellery Queen character appears in more than 30 books, as well as short stories. Frederic Danay founded and edited The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, which is still in print today. The magazine is considered one of best crime fiction magazines of its time.
The character Ellery Queen is an amateur detective who helps his father, Richard Queen, a New York City police officer, solve crimes. In The Greek Coffin Mystery, Ellery helps the police locate a missing will after the death of a Greek Art dealer, Georg Khalkis. When he insists the will has been hidden in the dead man’s coffin, they dig up the coffin and re-open it. The will isn’t there, but they discover that the Greek is not alone. There’s another body in the coffin with him. So now there’s a missing will and a dead body.

What follows is Ellery’s investigation of the crime. He sniffs out the clues that are available and eventually comes to the solution. The clues are laid out for the reader to follow along, and Ellery even states that everything has been shared and the solution is clear. He gathers the suspects in the manner of Hercule Poirot and explains how each clue led him to the murderer.

The book is one of the classic detective stories, and Ellery is often compared to investigators like Nero Wolfe. Even though Ellery believes he laid the clues at our feet, no one in our group was able to name the murderer. We fell for a red herring or two, though, which is not unusual.

A little fun fact about the book is that each of the chapters has a title. When you looked at all of the titles lined up in the table of contents, the first letter of each is an acrostic that spells out “The Greek Coffin Mystery by Ellery Queen.”

Last month the Crime & Beyond Book Club read CJ Box's novel, Stone Cold.

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