ELLERY QUEEN – The Dutch Shoe Mystery. Ellery Queen #4. Stokes, hardcover, 1931. Paperback reprints include Pocket #202; 1st printing, December 1942.

   Subtitled “A Problem in Deduction” (*) and that is exactly correct. The wealthy benefactress of a New York City hospital is murdered just before undergoing an emergency operation on the same building, and the only clue is a pair of shoes with a mended shoelace.

   No one should read an Ellery Queen novel of this vintage for a study of the characters involved, but for the most part the prose is clean and uncluttered. The only exception being a tendency toward flowery language at the beginning of every section. The rest of the story is punctuated only occasionally by the presence of yet another footnote. The lack of action is made up for by a plot that, when unraveled, has no flaws, so far as I can see.

   (*) There is a ‘Challenge to the Reader’ on page 241 of the Pocket edition, and as usual, I flubbed it up. And yet, if I’d followed through on the thought that occurred to me on page 32, I’d have nailed the culprit in no tie flat. I kid you not.

–Reprinted in slightly revised form from Mystery*File #16, October 1989.