A couple nights ago I finally finished Ellery Queen’s The Greek Coffin Mystery. Never read Ellery Queen before and I thought at first I was going to really enjoy it. (I started last spring, but left off for the #20booksofsummer and only just got back to it.) It is reminiscent of Dame Agatha, there’s an extended family with issues all living in this mansion all dependent on the titular Greek who’s in his coffin. The death is natural, they can’t find the will. Then they figure there’s only one place the will could have been hidden and voila! there’s a second body buried with the Greek. Not a bad start. I’m still bothered by the author and the main character being called Ellery Queen, although it’s not told in the first person. What’s up with that? They couldn’t think up two names? They thought it was such a great name they couldn’t stop using it? At any rate, Ellery Queen is the son of the chief inspector. All he does all day is hang around and help investigate, although his help is not always that helpful. He also smokes like a chimney. I don’t see how he’s going to live to 30. So, I enjoyed the beginning, but then…
[Spoilery bits below]
…it’s just too darned long. Three false solutions is too many. And the foofaraw about the teacups made no sense in either solution. Maybe he didn’t know the pot held 5 cups of water? Rich people who have servants just pour out the water they need and if it’s not enough they ring for more. But then it emerges someone somehow made extra cups of tea with cold water? Um, no. Not buying that. Why the hell didn’t the servants clear that out the next morning anyway? There’s the real question. So are they all like that? Solutions to mysteries hanging on such slender threads of not-even circumstantial evidence? And I never did get the significance of the ties being put into the wardrobe. They were on the table – then they were in the wardrobe. How is that a clue to anything? I did not guess. Though I still prefer my solution. The final, real solution makes no more sense than the ones that went before. Why would the murderer kill his partner only to turn around and take a new partner? Grimshaw was in prison for years. Maybe during that time he got a new partner. One he liked better than his old, troublesome partner… That doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone. And the moral of the story is don’t go into art theft if you don’t know anything about art.
Another thing is these cousins were not ahead of their time as far as attitudes toward women and other people go. There are a lot of eye-roll worthy lines about feminine psychology and it’s disconcerting to read everyone calling Khalkis cousin (or brother? I can’t remember) an idiot. He’s got some sort of mental incapacity, what it is exactly is not clear and presumably not known at the time, but still, it seems very rude to refer to him as the idiot.
Overall, I will probably try more Ellery Queens not gonna bail on him over one iffy book, but I kept thinking how clean a writer Dame Agatha is compared to Queen. Her books are generally about 2/3 the length of Greek Coffin Mystery and that’s about how long they should be. Dragging things out with a bunch of false solutions really doesn’t make it more enjoyable.