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The Chinese Orange Mystery
October 8, 2018
The Chinese Orange Mystery An Ellery Queen Mystery
by Ellery Queen Penzler Publishing American Mystery Classics
Mystery & Thrillers Pub Date 02 Oct 2018
The first name that comes to mind when I think of American Golden Age mystery authors is Ellery Queen. In a stroke of brilliance, the cousins who wrote the novels decided to have their pen name match the name of their detective. The introduction to this reprint of The Chinese Orange, offers readers a glimpse into the world of Queen’s creators and some fascinating background material. Two items make the Ellery Queen novels unique. 1) All of the clues that are available to Ellery Queen are also available to the reader. 2) There is a point in the novel where the detective directly addresses the reader and challenges the reader to solve the puzzle. Afterwards Ellery Queen provides the solution.
The Chinese Orange Mystery is a classic locked room puzzle with a bizarre twist. When the body is discovered, not only are his clothes on backwards, but most of the furniture and decorations. Odder still, two spears are used to keep the body straight. Ellery Queen, the brilliant amateur detective, and his father, the dedicated and hardworking inspector, seek not only whodunnit, how and why, but also the identity of the victim.
The novel is a bit dated in some of the language, and the presentation of Chinese culture is according to the stereotypes of the time it was written. Ellery Queen is often egotistical and pedantic, at times flaunting his superior knowledge. At its core, however, The Chinese Orange Mystery is a puzzle that is unique and memorable, a definite sign that American authors were able to hold their own during the Golden Age of Mystery.
4 / 5
I received a copy of The Chinese Orange Mystery from the publisher and Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
The offices of foreign literature publisher and renowned stamp collector Donald Kirk are often host to strange activities, but the most recent occurrence—the murder of an unknown caller, found dead in an empty waiting room—is unlike any that has come before. Nobody, it seems, entered or exited the room, and yet the crime scene clearly has been manipulated, leaving everything in the room turned backwards and upside down. Stuck through the back of the corpse’s shirt are two long spears—and a tangerine is missing from the fruit bowl. Enter amateur sleuth Ellery Queen, who arrives just in time to witness the discovery of the body, only to be immediately drawn into a complex case in which no clue is too minor or too glaring to warrant careful consideration. Reprinted for the first time in over thirty years, The Chinese Orange Mystery is revered to this day for its challenging conceit and inventive solution. The book is a “fair-play” mystery in which readers have all the clues needed to solve the crime. In 1981, the novel was selected as one of the top ten locked room mysteries of all time by a panel of mystery-world luminaries that included Julian Symons, Edward D. Hoch, Howard Haycraft, and Otto Penzler.