101 Years’ EntertainmentEdited by Ellery Queen (Part 2 of 6: Most Poorly Executed)

101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories of Over A Century

Part 2 of 6: Most Poorly Executed

I’m not big on short stories, mysteries excepted. Unfortunately, this anthology includes a selection of “mystery” stories that are more like horror, or fairy-tales gone amok; so I can’t recommend the whole batch of 50. That said, there are too many stories for one review: this is review 2 of 6, the nine short stories with the most plot holes /poorest writing.
• Ransom, by Pearl S. Buck A little boy is kidnapped, and we spend a lot of time looking for him but its not clues that solve this mystery, its luck. Unluckily, it comes too late into the story for us to care about the boy, much less his parents (who we have to endure for most of the story); all are stock figures of bored brat and panicked adults, respectively.
• The Treasure Hunt, by Mary Roberts Rinehart, Tish This story has a great set-up: a charity fund-raiser, a night-time treasure hunt, lots of racing cars, and a townful of odd Joes and Janes. Too bad the writing is so poor we never get beyond names for any of the characters except Tish (our lady detective whose key characteristics are vandalism, stealing, and beating up her fellow charity-gala-attendees in life-threatening ways. Charmed, I’m sure).
• The Owl At The Window, by G.D.H. and M. I. Cole, Superintendent Wilson, 1923. A man is found dead, in his own home, the only suspect having just arrived and left late the night before while the man was clearly still alive. An original murder method, if you can endure the meandering and red herrings of ten too many pages.
• The Pink Edge, by Frank Forest and George Dilnot, Inspector Barraclough, 1915. A missing millionare’s daughter, a forgery trial, and randsom notes with pink edges. Excellent plot development, but most of the connecting plot points are simply missing, leaving the reader to wonder how we got from A to D when not even the end’s expounding mentions B and C.
• The Absent-Minded Coterie, by Robert Barr, Eugene Valmont, 1906. The literary founder of Hercule Poirot, this author has a great idea in the beginning, but the plot holes are so gapingly large that the ending falls through. So, *SPOILERS* the hero just waltzes into the bad guy’s office, is told he’s out of line (not having a warrant or police authority or even retaining a single clue), and stays around arguing long enough for all the evidence to be destroyed. Really annoying, this one. *END SPOILERS*
• The Perfect Crime, by Ben Ray Redman, A detective with a big ego, a keen-eyed scientist, and a long evening of friendly conversation. This isn’t as much a mystery as a recounting of past mysteries, which recreates the atmosphere of the night-time so successfully I was bored to sleep. The title is explained by the end of the story, though its got to be the least reasonable crime (motive and means are equally unexplained) ever, and far from perfect (an investigator “in”hibits the search for evidence).
• The Hands of Mr. Otter-mole, by Thomas Burke, is well written in the technical sense, but the plot leaves much to be desired, deliberately not telling us why the murders happen or how the detective solves it. This might be a philosophical point but it isn’t stated and was really annoying, so I’m including it on grounds of poor plotting.
• The Mystery of the Missing Wash, by Octavus Roy Cohen, Florian Slappey, A washerwoman, recently divorced, is losing her commissioned clothes and will soon lose her clientele if the their isn’t found. This one isn’t so much bad writing as it is laziness. The author writes himself into a corner, then suddenly, whoosh, we’re at the end, mystery solved, and the reader is left scratching her head.
• The Mad Tea Party, by Ellery Queen, Ellery Queen, A crazy architect is murdered, and a whole host of things go missing while our detective, the arcitect’s adulterous wife, and few other random and convenient guests lock themselves in and start to go crazy. If you enjoy mind benders without solutions, you’ll love this.

OVERALL: The mix wasn’t entirely boring to read, but generally by the end it got tiresome and or downright annoying. “Most Poorly Executed” definitely.


One thought on “101 Years’ EntertainmentEdited by Ellery Queen (Part 2 of 6: Most Poorly Executed)

  1. Pingback: Conservative Book Talk » 101 Years’ Entertainment, Edited by Ellery Queen (Part 6 of 6)

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