ELLERY QUEEN The Siamese Twin Mystery

ELLERY QUEEN – The Siamese Twin Mystery.

Frederick A. Stokes, hardcover, October 1933. Reprinted many times, in both hardcover and soft, including: Pocket Books #109, 1st printing, June 1941; Pocket #109, 10th printing, 1950; Pocket 6135, 12th printing, 1962; Signet T4086, 1970. (All shown.)

   I don’t know how long I’ll last on this particular resolution, it not being New Year’s and all, but I’ve promised myself that if I can, I’ll go back and start re-reading some (not all) of the books I devoured while I was growing up.

   This is the first one, and you can mark me as I go, although I probably won’t always be mapping and pointing the trail out along the way.

ELLERY QUEEN The Siamese Twin Mystery

   I don’t know when I read this one the first time — I didn’t even realize that you were allowed to have opinions about books and movies until I was in junior high — and I really thought about keeping records of what I read until 1970 or so.

   And all I remember from the first reading of The Siamese Twin Mystery is the fire that drives Ellery and his dad, Inspector Queen, farther and farther up a mountain, flames licking at their tires most of the way.

   Ellery was driving his Duesenberg, a model of car the name of which thrilled me in itself, and one so old that my spell-checker doesn’t even recognize it. The rest of the story was a blank, though. I didn’t remember a thing.

ELLERY QUEEN The Siamese Twin Mystery

   J. J. McC.’s foreword states the locale as Arrow Mountain, a peak in the Tepee range, which Google says is in Wyoming, perhaps extending as far south as Utah, but most definitely “in the heart of the ancient Indian country.”

   There at the top of the mountain, with no route to safety open to them, they take refuge in (guess what) an isolated pile of a mansion in which (you guessed) a murder is about to take place, and in fact, eventually, two.

   And not only is this an “isolated county manor” sort of story, but there are two dying messages involved — both in the form of torn playing cards found in the hands of each of the victims.

ELLERY QUEEN The Siamese Twin Mystery

   Bizarre circumstances, gruesome murders, eerie surroundings, this is a detective story that has it all, settingwise, even a pair of conjoined (Siamese) twins. (No surprise there.)

   The actual detection, though, I thought was a trifle labored in comparison. The edition (a 3rd printing Pocket paperback from 1941) that I just finished did not even have a “Challenge to the Reader.”

   Not that I have ever been up to the challenge of one of those, but for an Ellery Queen yarn, the explanation at the end made me think I might have gotten this one.

   Well, the solution was clever enough, but I would have been close. Or I might have, I’m sure, if I’d thought about it. Ellery Queen’s solution are always obvious. Afterward.

ELLERY QUEEN The Siamese Twin Mystery

   There is a good legal question that arose at one point — and don’t take my bringing this up as my in any way letting slip the identity of the killer(s) — but if one of the Siamese twins had done it, how could he have been punished, without punishing the (possibly innocent) other?

   This is a question I remember reading about somewhere before. Was there another tale, short story or novel, by another author perhaps, where the question also arose, or is one of the other things I remember from this mystery — besides the Duesenberg working its way up the mountain, that is?

PostScript. Got a favorite cover among this choice of five? Is there one that stands out for you and would make you want to buy the book as soon as you saw it? At cover price? There’s one for me, that’s for sure.