It might surprise you to know that mystery radio shows were apparently very popular at one point, and there were few more popular than the Ellery Queen radio plays. Written by Manfred B. Lee and Fredric Dannay, and later by Lee and Anthony Boucher, (another author on my to-be-read list) the series ran from 1939 to 1948 and had a listenership of 15 million a week at its height. Unfortunately, it faded away... until the Church of Crippen and Landru, headed by St. Greene, released some of the scripts in The Adventure of the Murdererd Moths and Other Radio Mysteries.
The stories are said to contain the Queen staples of fair-play cluing, along with a Challenge to the
The Adventure of the Last Man Club
A simple exercise in showing off takes a dark turn when Ellery and his assistant Nikki Porter witness a hit-and-run. Before dying, the victim coughs out information that leads Ellery to the Last Man Club, who are indulging in that second-most fatal of mystery clichés, (the first being blackmail) the Tontine. And that's before the member are all nearly killed off by a poisoned wine bottle...
And excellent start to the collection. The story is good, the clueing is fair, and the reveal is very well done. My only complaint is some bizarre kidnapping thing that shows up without reason, but everything balances out. Though I do have a question now: Why would anyone be part of a Tontine? It seems like a excellent way to get murdered.
The Adventure of Napoleon's Razor
Ellery and Nikki are travelling on a train from California, when murder is done. A man is stabbed to death in one of the booths with, of all things, a razor that belonged to Napoleon. That mystery pales in comparison to the true mystery here, the one that easily overshadows this trivial murder; where did his stolen emeralds go? Everyone and everything is searched, and no trace is found...
Another great mystery with a well-hidden killer and an clever hiding place for stolen jewels. I do wonder what the point of the (SPOILER G-men were supposed to be, besides making me think that we were suddenly in a Half-Life crossover. I know that they were meant to be a red herring, but they have so little to do with anything... END SPOILERS) Also, there's either a major cheat pulled or a clever misdirection (SPOILERS You will not convince me that it was unintentional that they mention a historical error from Queen right next to the intentional historical error. END SPOILERS)
The Adventure of the Bad Boy
Bobby Hayes is a brat and a holy terror to his mother and aunt. But does that mean that he poisoned his aunt's rabbit stew?
Another good story! Despite the dark premise, this story never falls into the trap of being all ANGST!!! and delivers a very good story with a nice surprise twist. There's some specialized knowledge, though to be honest the story gives you enough to work it out anyway. Though I have to wonder...(SPOLIERS what happened to Gordini? I know that he indirectly committed murder, but it was by turning someone else's plan back on them. What would the courts think? END SPOLIERS)
The Adventure of the March of Death
Samuel March is a jerk. Really, he is. He's cruel to his children, even when they don't deserve it (for one of them anyway) and treats his servant like crap, even though he's willing all of his money to the man. Even Ellery can tell that he's gonna die. And die he does, with a knife rammed in his back. At least he was able to leave a dying message...what do you mean that it implicates every suspect...?
Ah, a good dying message story. The dying message is fair and requires no specialized knowledge. There's not much more to say, other than that Ellery's knowledge of how this was going to turn out made me smile.
The Adventure of the Haunted Cave
A paranormal researcher believes that he has found an instance of genuine paranormal phenomenon. In a cave where a man strangled many victims. This being a murder mystery, he decides to spend the night in the cave with a rival, but when day breaks, he's gone in early, and been strangled early. And only his footprints are in the mud surrounding the cave's entrance...
Ah, my favorite kind of locked room mystery; the no footprints story! As usual, the story is fairly clued, and the solution is beautifully simple. (SPOILERS The killer's method of getting out of the cave was pretty weak compared to how they got in though... END SPOLIERS)
The Adventure of the Lost Child
Harvey Morrell, owner of the Hessian Chronicle, is a man with many enemies. But which of those enemies kidnapped his daughter? It will take all of Ellery's skill to reach the truth, and he may not like it...
Probably the best story in the collection. The story is dark, yet never crosses into Warhammer 40,000 levels of dark. It's well executed on almost every level, and almost guaranteed to gut punch you. (SPOLIER Though why the cop out with the whole "the killer is her stepmother, not her mother thing?" It really wasn't needed... END SPOLIERS)
The Adventure of the Black Secret
The C.D. Black Company is the oldest rare book dealer in the city. Unfortunately, they're having a spate of thefts; so many thefts that the insurance company is getting suspicious, and they're sending in their own version of Ellery Queen to figure things out. Now Ellery has to juggle a thief who can steal things in plain sight, Black's mysterious secret, a murder, and his own ego...
I do enjoy this one. The clueing for the thefts is slightly weak, but not by much. The dying message near the end is ingenious too. Really, my only complaint is some weird comedy bit in the story. I get why it's there, but I just couldn't enjoy it...
The Adventure of the Dying Scarecrow
A country trip takes a bizarre turn when Ellery and co. find a man yelling about a bleeding scarecrow. Who turns out to be a propped-up half-dead guy. This leads Ellery to the Mathew Farm, a place of mental instability and tragedy. Just what did that unknown man have to do with them anyway...?
Another good story. The usual rules apply, blah blah good pacing blah blah fair clueing blah blah I like the whole anonymous victim idea... this really is a good, if somber, story.
The Adventure of the Woman in Black
Philip Jurney, a famous author, is having trouble. Namely, a mysterious woman in black, who can apparently shrug off bullets, seems to be following him around... and it's said that when she appears to a member of his family three times, they'll die...
The last of the longer stories, this is yet another solid tale with fair clueing and an interesting situation. My main gripe is that the trick behind the Woman's seeming intangibility is too easy to solve. (SPOILERS This also makes one of the people involved very obvious. Sure I didn't figure it out, but it's still very easy. END SPOILERS) The Oscar Wilde clue is very clever too.
The Adventure of the Forgotten Men
A group of homeless men find out that a new member is stashing items in their camp. They drive him away, but he later turns up again, murdered...
This is the first of the shorter scripts, but it isn't a reduction in quality. Instead, it still manages to be a fairly-clued story that should satisfy any mystery fan. I really don't know what else to say. (I'm running into the Hoch Effect(TM) here...)
The Adventure of the Man Who Could Double The Size of Diamonds
I reviewed this already under Please Lock The Door On Your Way Out. Though I did come up with a new complaint (SPOILERS Why did Kenyon plant the British guy's diamond in Lazarus' hand? Why not his own? Then he'd get it back. That's actually why I thought that the British guy had something to do with it. END SPOLIERS)
The Adventure of the Dark Cloud
When Ellery was invited aboard the Valentine's yacht, he (foolishly) assumed that there would best rest and relaxation. He didn't expect the family patriarch to be shot while recording his will...
This...is good? Really, there's not much to say about it other than that. I mean, sure (SPOLIERS you could argue that the opening shouldn't give away the fact that there's a dying message here, but that's not the story's fault, is it? END SPOILERS)
The Adventure of Mr. Short and Mr. Long
Napoleon Short is a professional scammer, and Richard Queen has finally cornered him. He and the police wait outside his home, see him come out... and then turn around and vanish...
A reference to that famous case that Sherlock Holmes failed to solve, the disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore, this story presents a very good picture of that famous case. This story seems to be a version of the whole "searching for some object" device that I've heard is common in Queen stories. It's good, but (SPOLIERS how could Mr. Short ensure that no one would walk out to the portico? It's right outside after all...END SPOILERS) It didn't hit me until I started writing this, so I guess that it can't be too big of a complaint... The clueing is also slightly thin.
The Adventure of the Murdered Moths
A stop at a run-down country inn places Ellery and co. in the center of young love. Thankfully, this is soon overshadowed by the far more interesting event of the bride's father being gassed to death, and by the fact the case turns on dead moths...
Well... this is a good story, no doubt, but I wonder why it was the title story. I mean, there's really nothing that sets it apart or anything. It does make a cool title though, so that's probably the reason.
So that's this book taken care of. It's good. Very good. The stories have a very even quality to them, and there isn't a story that I can say is "bad."
I give this book an 8 out of 10.
Now then...I am very sorry for the long wait. I'm trying to balance this with my life, and it's proving difficult. That being said, I think that I found a way to balance it, so I should be faster! If my procrastination doesn't get in the way...
As an apology, I'll mention that The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries will be out on October 28!
Next time, we'll take a look at some more radio mysteries, from one of the greatest mystery authors ever. Especially of a certain genre...
Thanks for reading!