ELLERY QUEEN – Beware the Young Stranger. Pocket, paperback original; 1st printing, May 1965.

   Back in 1961, when the first of the bogus Ellery Queen paperbacks like this one came out, in my total lack of sophisticated way, as I recall it, I said something to myself along the lines of, Gee those guys must really need the money. I bought them all, though, or most of them, but I don’t think I got around to reading many of them, no more than two or three. I don’t think I missed much, but as you and I both know full well, some must have been better than others.

   This one was written by Talmage Powell, a long-time pulp writer and the creator of the better than average PI Ed Rivers paperback series. And so he was an author I was therefore familiar with at the time, but how was I or anyone else to know?

   This one’s not bad — as a sample I decided to give myself earlier this past weekend — and in fact, it’s better written than most of the paperback original mysteries that were coming out around the same time. But it’s also straight as a string, with no particular surprise in the telling; even worse, it has an awfully low page count of only 156 pages, with a slightly larger than usual font size.

   There’s a large back story to go along with the cast of characters in the upper middle class, or country club setting of this novel, but what it boils down to is this: distinguished diplomat John Vallancourt’s daughter is 21 and in love with a boy whose background is somewhat shady. He was questioned but released in the investigation of a young girl’s death while on spring break, for example, so Vallancourt takes it upon himself to discover a lot more about him.

   But when the boy’s aunt is murdered, and he is seen leaving the scene and soon after disappearing, on the run with the daughter in tow, Vallancourt’s task takes on much more serious tones. Is the boy guilty? Or is he innocent? And will Vallancourt find the two of them in time?