Two old houses, one white, one black, stand face to face in the middle of nowhere. Ellery Queen finds himself staying with in the white house, finding himself involved in a treasure hunt. But things take a sinister twist, when, once everyone is stranded in the locale due to a snowstorm, they wake up to find the black house has vanished without trace…
This and eight other stories of murder and theft make up the New Adventures of Ellery Queen, the second main collection of short stories from Fred Dannay and Manfred Lee. I have very fond memories of these when I first read them – but have they stood the test of time?
Wow. And that’s not a good wow. How the memory cheats…
The problem with these stories – with all of these stories – is the level of unreality that the writers inject into them. Everyone seems to be an exaggeration of a real person, rather than a real person, which I suppose is a reflection of the plots which generally don’t seem particularly grounded in reality either.
Let’s take a look at The Lamp Of God, the story of the disappearing house which kicks off the collection, a 100 page novella, compared to the remainder of the short stories. The central idea of the disappearing house only works one way practically – a way that is heavily hinted at in the blurb on the back – and justifying the creation of that situation requires levels of eccentricity that beggar belief. There’s an additional twist to the tale which helps distract from the nonsense, but one that does make the reader question Ellery’s powers of observation… All in all, it’s an atmospheric tale, but undermined by the logic in the characters’ actions.
And that goes for a lot of the other tales. The House of Darkness is probably the highlight, concerning a murder in pitch darkness, but overall, this isn’t a particularly inspiring collection of mysteries – the final four were written later than the others, featuring the Paula Paris character from the EQ Hollywood stories, but unfortunately centre around various sports, which doesn’t really interest me much.
So, can’t really recommend these. The Lamp Of God is fine, but even that’s not great… overall, a bit of a disappointment.