Tue 13 Jan 2009
by William R. Loeser
That Ellery Queen’s International Case Book is not included in Hubin’s Bibliography gives credence to what is only implied in the book itself — these short accounts are of true occurrences.
If correct, several of these criminal cases deserve more detailed and less dramatised presentation than given here in what were originally articles for a Sunday supplement.
Particularly interesting are the bank robber who, posing as a health officer, poisoned all the employees of a bank so that he could gather and carry off his loot unimpeded; the mistress who had her lover blinded so that she could care for him for years and thereby be permitted to obtain respectability through marrying him; and the banker who dismembered and disfigured his laborer rival, hired a sculptor to make for the police a representation of the deceased as the banker to convince them the wrong man died, but was caught because he couldn’t permit the calloused hands to be found.
And yet, as elsewhere, one regrets the slipshod artistic integrity of the later Queen in the presentation of these cases.
* * * * * * * *
Recently I was stranded nearly bookless and erroneously chose John Dickson Carr’s Captain Cut-Throat over a couple of unappetizing offerings by Marsh and Lathen. I realized, part way through it, that I had read it twice before and, by the time I finished, that it is the worst mystery I’ve read.
I think Carr was writing for Hollywood, and he achieved the almost impossible of under-estimating producers’ intelligence. The less said about this book, the better.
ELLERY QUEEN – Ellery Queen’s International Case Book. Dell 2260, paperback original, 1964.
JOHN DICKSON CARR – Captain Cut-Throat. Harper & Brothers, US, hardcover, 1955. UK edition: Hamish Hamilton, hc, 1955 (shown). Paperback reprints (US): Bantam A1472, 1956; F2708, 1963; Charter, 1980, Carroll & Graf, 1998.
From the two Bantam editions:
“The roistering novel of swashbuckling men and gallant ladies in the desperate days when Napoleon held his armies poised like a lance at the heart of England.”
“He killed by night — without reason, without mercy, without leaving a trace. A novel of murder, menace and desperate revenge.”