Despite the dismal Broadway season, Gunplay continues to draw crowds. A gangland spectacle, it's packed to the gills with action, explosions, and gunfire. In fact, Gunplay is so loud that no one notices the killing of Monte Field. In a sold-out theater, Field is found dead partway through the second act, surrounded by empty seats. The police hold the crowd and call for the one man who can untangle this daring murder: Inspector Richard Queen. With the help of his son Ellery, a bibliophile and novelist whose imagination can solve any crime, the Inspector attacks this seemingly impenetrable mystery. Anyone in the theater could have killed the unscrupulous lawyer, and several had the motive. Only Ellery Queen, in his debut novel, can decipher the clue of the dead man's missing top hat.
©2013 Ellery Queen (P)2013 AudioGO
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"Good story, product of its time"
I'm new to Ellery Queen, and I found this to be a good story with an interesting plotline. It was written early last century and shows it - the action doesn't move extremely quickly and the discussions move at a slower pace. The villain is a surprise, not because the author 'cheated', but because the plot twists and clues are subtle. Possibly once I have read a number of these I will be better at predicting the ending, but I doubt it. I very much enjoyed the plot and most of the characters.
One note: this book was written in a time when minorities were often portrayed almost as caricatures. I can generally overlook a certain number of these types of references, but this book has some scenes and descriptions that are pretty shocking by today's standards. Djuna the houseboy is of gypsy origin, according to Wikipedia, but that is not clear in the text. Djuna is not a major character in the story (he is supposed to be comic relief, I think, but I didn't find him funny) and is portrayed with affection like a pet. If this upsets you, consider reading Rex Stout instead, or at least skipping the few scenes involving Djuna.
I took a star off my overall rating because of the way Djuna was portrayed. He did detract from my enjoyment of the book in spite of my efforts to overlook those scenes.
Bottom line: the story is good, the characters are interesting, and the book is worth reading if you can take a scholarly approach to the portrayal of Djuna as a product of that time. I am going to try a few more of the series and hope for the best.
"Wonderful "logic puzzle"--great listen, great fun!"
This was my first Ellery Queen. Loving mysteries, I have long intended to get to these books because they're a significant part of the American contributions during the classic mystery writing period. (This one was originally published in 1929). Being a lover of mysteries from that time, so far as I can tell, this is about as good as it gets.
This is the "fun" kind of mystery--where it is laid out as a pure logic problem for the reader from beginning to end. Clues and suspects are plentiful, but the author has (now looking back on it) been very clever in creating a straightforward mystery that the reader could [theoretically] solve along with them. (Clues are everywhere but few red herrings). Toward the end, the author has an aside to the reader, stating that now, at this point, we know as much as the detectives do--there will be no surprises thrown in at the end--and invites the reader to use their own deductive powers to solve the murder/puzzle. Quite a fun book, really--like a giant cerebral murder puzzle. It's "Clue" on steroids. If you know how to pay attention, you can solve the mystery (but fair warning--it is far from obvious and I won't say if I was smart enough to figure it out :-) .
Richard Queen (the father) is a member of the homicide squad--greatly respected by all his peers and superiors (there's a different idea--modern detective stories so often have the main characters butting up against forces that do not support them--so they become lone wolves). But not here--this is a book with "class". Ellery Queen is the son, who for all practical purposes is not a detective, but a book lover, but father & son are unusually close, and Ellery does a great deal of the "detecting" in the team. The book is written without a single swear word, in fact I would call it "polite" much of the time because it is not meant as a series of shocks, but a series of clues to the reader.
It is peppered with some literary allusions, and the occasional Latin phrase (to point out how erudite the father & son are). I feel the need to just comment on how it has a small amount of what would today be viewed as a sort of political incorrectness--a very few comments by characters left me cringing and sad, but I finally decided that the writing represents mindsets of that era, and I believe the authors would be sensitive enough to present a couple of offhand remarks differently today. Although noticeable, it didn't take away from the overall enjoyment.
So there were two authors for the Ellery Queen series. I looked that part up--and it sounds like two men wrote the books--one came up with the logic puzzle sort of setup and the clues, while the other wrote the dialogue and fleshed the books out. I'm old, and have read hundreds of good mysteries in my life. I had heard of Ellery Queen, but never before read one. I was beyond thrilled with this discovery, I'm groggy with lack of sleep this morning because I listened till the wee hours to hear the end, and I cannot wait till I can listen to the next one! I so highly recommend--I wish I could give it all 10 stars!
"An old fashioned whodunit"
I bought this based on my fond memories of the Ellery Queen mysteries on TV. I always thought they were intelligently written, reasonably well scripted and smartly done and hoped that the books would be the same.
There were two things that struck me about this book in particular. One was that the language and social attitudes were very dated with both words and ideas that are now considered at the very least archaic if not something worse. The second is that the mystery itself was as well constructed as I remembered the TV shows to be with all of the needed hints provided along with a lot of red herrings. All in all it was fun although at times a bit tiring trying to deal with the old language.
While I was able to guess what was going on and who, in general, was the villain, the mystery was deep enough to make me stop and think about who it might be for some time before I came to a reasonable conclusion.
The book is well read and I enjoyed it, but I do not believe I will buy any more. One was enough to satisfy my curiosity.
"A classic with all the trappings of age"
A true classic.
I would not change a thing. While it does not meet current ideas of political correctness, it is a great representation of the times in which it is set and was written.
The narrator does not go overboard with the vocal representations of the characters, but still manages to convey tone and intent.
Listened to it non-stop on a trip across Nevada from Utah to San Jose. Great listen!
If you enjoy the Ellery Queen method and don't mind a period piece that shows its age in places, you will enjoy this production.
"Just remember it was written in the 20's..."
It's an excellent detective/mystery story. I had to remind myself several times that it was written a long time ago to keep from getting too annoyed at the way women (dainty, fragile, forgetting their place, etc) are written in this story to finish. If that kind of thing bothers you, skip it. Otherwise, it was a pretty good story and the narration was excellently done
"Worth listening - it will bring you back"
I forgot how much I enjoy Ellery Queen. Very quaint but so fun to listen to. Excellent performance.
"A good mystery"
The reader is excellent and every character is recognizable. I remember reading Ellery Queen mysteries as a teenager. My father subscribed to the magazine. Now, 60 years later, I enjoy not only the story and the powers of deduction Ellery and his father use, but the historical significance of the setting. Men no longer all wear hats so this plot would not work today. That does not take anything away from the story. I will certainly listen to others in the series.
"Ellery Queen fans"
The Roman Hat mystery is typical of the era and genre - can feel a bit tedious, politically incorrect at times. Ellery fans will enjoy it.
"Not as eloquent as they think they are."
The cousins who wrote as Ellery Queen waste a lot of words and your time with this. Definitely not as concise as Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur C. Doyle, they drag the listener through a lot that adds nothing to the plot. It's a bit of a snoozer.
Pretty good narration.
"Slow going with racism. What more could you want?"
The long deductive analysis was boring. The scenes were all the same: Father comes up against a mental log jam. Seemingly brilliant son solves it in his aloof manner. Father endlessly grateful. Easy enough to figure out the distractors. Plus the institutional racism--hard to read. I know it was a book of its time, but still.
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