I found myself getting more ecstatic every time this whodunit got more outrageous. The fact is, I'm long past the point of thinking "very clever, but big demerit points because this simply would not happen" when I read these things. In fiction, countless murders have happened in gentle little villages, in country houses filled with respectable people - with murder schemes and techniques that leave stunningly entertaining clues hinting at yet another slaying as "murder as intricate work of art, with flaw". It doesn't always happen, but I do love adding stars to my star rating, for every outrageous, over-the-top development, instead of deducting them.
This is one of those. It's so deliciously absurd - but it operates much like a truly great John Dickson Carr effort; I could not help thinking of the main underpinnings of The Crooked Hinge...but this is so much better, so much more fun - and so, more like The Mad Hatter Mystery.
I love the fact that I take issue with a major clue, and yet...I guess statistics would prove that someone would (reveal omitted) almost every time he or she (reveal omitted). Ellery Queen sure does sell a key piece of logic attached to a clue, and I'll allow it.
I love the fact that as the 'Reveal With Detailed Walk-Through' portion of the book started unfolding near the end - I GOT IT! I had an epiphany! I grabbed at a few slight reveals hinting at something, and I very stunningly figured out who the killer was, and how something "impossible" had to have happened...and I thought "Even though I figured out the brilliant trick, it's still brilliant, and the author is brilliant, and I'm brilliant for figuring it out, and it's a lovely, brilliant world, when it's brilliant.".
Of course I was wrong. Do you even need to ask?! Looking back at my epiphany - I loved my little epiphany, it was a good epiphany as epiphanies go; it meant well...it was just the wrong epiphany. I watched as the Big Reveal continued on its merry way, and became mystified as each further bit of clearing-up seemed to be taking me farther away from my epiphany. "This doesn't seem to be supporting what has to be the finale of the book - I don't understand...you're making it very hard for my brilliant realization to be the explanation for everything that has happened. Stop that! If you keep going on like this, Mr. Queen, it's going to be impossible for you pull a Big Reverse of this bullshit Big Reveal you've got going, and, y'know, brilliantly jump over to the real brilliant solution that I know is the truth!!".
Turns out: I don't know nuthin'.
Even. Better. Reveal! Thrilled I was all wrong (more shocked and pissed off, at first...but that fades)!
This book features a fire raging up the side of a mountain, at the top of which Ellery Queen and his crusty dad are trying to solve a murder (author and lead detective have same name, in case that's news) before everyone fries (probably asphyxiates, actually). It just keeps getting stranger and stranger, and then it all makes sense.
But don't trust your first epiphany. Sort through them, if a few pop into your head, and pick something less shiny, but smoother. ("I mean, okay, looking back, that was a wild idea - even for this nutty book!").
Recommended to all fans of Golden Age Mysteries! It is endlessly entertaining, like all the best.