ELLERY QUEEN The Spanish Cape Mystery

ELLERY QUEEN – The Spanish Cape Mystery. Frederic A. Stokes, hardcover, March 1935. Pocket #146, 1st printing, February 1942; 17th printing, May 1951 (shown to the right). Many other reprint editions, both hardcover and soft.

   The titular Spanish Cape is a small hunk of land sticking out into the ocean somewhere along the North Atlantic seaboard. There is only one home there, that of Walter and Stella Godfrey and their family, along with assorted summer guests, none of whom knew him before they were invited, nor he them. Which is a good way to get a good detective puzzle started, but wait, you haven’t heard how this mystery really gets going.

   Which is with the kidnapping of Rosa, Stella and Walter’s daughter, along with Stella’s brother and Rosa’s uncle, by a giant one-eyed pirate-like figure who has made a big mistake. By his own account, what he really meant was to drag a fellow named John Marco out of the house and dump his body at sea. On whose orders? After the error was discovered, it must have been the person who followed through with Marco’s death back at the Godfrey manor.

ELLERY QUEEN The Spanish Cape Mystery

   A death, however, which is even more puzzling. Marco is found strangled on an outdoor terrace, totally nude except for a cape, hat and walking stick. Most of the Ellery Queen detective puzzles are larger than life, and this one, as you may have surmised, is no exception.

   Ellery is called upon to lend a hand while on vacation. Inspector Queen, however, is not along with him. Working with Ellery on this case is Judge Macklin, a long time friend whom he is traveling with, and the local police, headed up by one Inspector Moley, who growls in frustration about as well as Ellery’s dad does when the deduction seems to get derailed, so the latter is not particularly missed.

   As intricately plotted as any of Ellery’s early cases, this ninth case in novel form (and the last with this particular title pattern), finds Ellery a lot looser and less formal in his approach, with his pince nez mentioned only once, if I recall correctly. (I may be wrong about this.)

ELLERY QUEEN The Spanish Cape Mystery

   Ellery Queen, the authors, still don’t know much about proper police procedure, nor does the occurrence of sudden, unexpected death cause nearly as much stir as surely it would in real life, but that’s not the point. This is a puzzle mystery, through and through, which each piece of the jigsaw needed to point the finger in the end at only one suspect, and one suspect only.

   I enjoyed it all very much, thank you, even though I decided very early on who the killer was, and even though I was right about that, I failed to catch the significance of the naked body of the not-very-well-liked Mr Marco. Having thought about it now for 24 hours since I finished the book, there’s simply no way for me to write around it. The killer’s behavior was simply too bizarre for me.

   It’s a shame that all of Ellery’s deductions are based on such a single weak point, but if you can give the authors the benefit of the doubt, everything else snaps into place in absolutely perfect fashion.