A Year with Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine: April 1951

Today I am carrying on with my year long plan to read one Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine a month. April’s issue came with a different format in 1951 as it focused solely on including one story from each of the eight best mystery writers of all time, as ranked by the Gallup Poll which had recently taken place.

A copy of the April 1951 edition of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It shows a man putting an suspicious looking item down a manhole cover with a men working sign behind him. There is a pair of hands inside the manhole ready to receive the suspicious item. The cover is yellow. The magazine is sitting on a Cluedo board.

The authors are listed in the magazine in rank order, starting with the author who came first, Erle Stanley Gardner. The only difference is that in 6th place was S. S. Van Dine, but he could not be included according to Ellery Queen as there was no short story from him to include. That is how Hammett made 8th place in this issue when really, he was in 9th place in the results.

Do any of these authors surprise you as being considered the best? Or would you have chosen a different story for any of the authors listed in this issue that you think are better?

The Case of the Crimson Kiss Erle Stanley Gardner (1948) by Erle Stanley Gardner

I reviewed this story two years ago as it was included in Golden Age Detective Stories (2021) which was edited by Otto Penzler. This was one of my favourites from that anthology.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (1892) by Arthur Conan Doyle

I have reviewed this story previously on my blog when looking at the British Library Crime Classic short story collection, Silent Nights (2015), which was edited by Martin Edwards. I also mention it in my blog post concerning ‘Melodrama and the Sherlock Holmes Stories’.

If you could only represent the Sherlock Holmes canon with one story, which would you pick?

This is a question I am still mulling over. Do you go for the case with the most unusual features or the best demonstration of Sherlock Holmes skills? Or is there a particular setting you enjoy the most or is there a case which has the best ending or beginning?

The Emperor’s Dice (1951) by Ellery Queen

I reviewed this story when I looked at Ellery Queen’s Calendar of Crime (1952) short story collection back in 2019. This was my favourite story of that collection.

The Cask of Amontillado (1846) by Edgar Allan Poe

This is a story that I read many years, but it has been so long that I had forgotten what it was about before re-reading it for this review.

Poe’s tale is concerned with a narrator called Montresor, who is out for revenge upon a man named Fortunato and he aims to not only avenge himself but to also get away with it. His Achilles heel is his fondness for wine and that is what the narrator uses to lure him into his vaults to do a taste testing. The murder method used was not one that I expected but fits in with the suitably gothic atmosphere of the piece. I did find the narrative rather heavy on the description front and the ending is a bit too understated. I think it could have been more dramatic or had greater impact. It is also curious that we never learn why Montresor wants to bump off Fortunato in the first place. The characterisation in that respect is not that deep.

Philomel Cottage (1924) by Agatha Christie

I reviewed this story when I looked at a collection released a few years ago entitled: The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories (2016) by Agatha Christie. Christie adapted the story for the stage in 1932, and this play was then adapted by Frank Vosper under the name Love from a Stranger (1936). I saw a reproduction of this in 2018 at the Newcastle Theatre Royal.

Four A. M. (1948) by Mary Roberts Rinehart

We are told in the opening paragraphs of this tale that it is Nurse Anne Elizabeth, aided by intern George Swayne, who solves the murder which occurs across the street from the hospital and that a particular patient at the hospital is mixed up in it somehow. It all starts with Elizabeth being on night duty for the private patients, something she dislikes as it is quite boring. One night she and George struggle to get the patient in room 12 to stay in bed, as she is obsessed with staring out of her window to a house across the street. Why? Swayne and Elizabeth equally end up staring out of the window, watching a man enter a house and 15 minutes later hearing a gun shot, followed by a woman who collapses outside in the street. Swayne rushes across to investigate, whilst Anne Elizabeth stays behind, watching from the window. Based on what she hears from George Swayne and from what she sees, she solves the case. I think with some fairer cluing this could have been a very clever and satisfying puzzle mystery, as the way the case is solved is interesting. I am just not sure the reader stands a chance of working out how the nurse discovers the solution, although they might still alight upon the killer, due to the small set of culprits.

The Affair of the Twisted Scarf (1950) by Rex Stout

This story begins with Archie Goodwin being unimpressed at having to co-host a visit from the Manhattan Flower Club to see Nero Wolfe’s orchids, largely due to the lack of young women. There is only one woman which catches his eye, but she gives him the brush off until later in the afternoon when she reveals in his office that she has a criminal past, she is currently in the middle of the scam, yet she has just seen the person she thinks murdered her friend many months ago (information she never provided the police with at the time because she feared reprisals). She wants to speak to Nero Wolfe to reveal the details about the person in question, but naturally this never happens. She is left alone and of course she dies. This is very much a mystery which is solved by setting up a trap for the killer. The underlying surprise/twist to the case is a good one, but I think Stout could have been a bit more generous with the cluing on this point.

The Man Who Stood in the Way (1923) by Dashiell Hammett

At the start of this magazine when Ellery Queen describe the Gallup Poll they offer thanks to those who agreed for the stories to be printed and when it comes to Hammett’s story they mention that it was (at the time) an ‘unknown’ story by him. I have not really encountered Hammett’s writing before, but my first impression was of the high amount of description the reader gets in the opening scene (and elsewhere). I found this a dull aspect, as it takes over a page for us to get any meaningful dialogue in the story. This crime story is centred on a senator who is asking Gene Inch to “deal with” his blackmailer, the leverage being that the senator pardoned his son for a murder charge. The senator’s backstory was interesting, but the remainder of the plot was boring and very predictable. I can’t say this story had me inching to read more by Hammett.

Although the magazine ended on a weaker note, in my opinion, the majority of these stories were good ones and to date this is my favourite Ellery Queen Magazine issue.

Rating: 4.5/5

The writers coming up in May 1951’s issue are:

  • Charlotte Armstrong
  • Thomas Walsh
  • A. A. Milne
  • W. A. Darlington
  • Ellery Queen
  • Rafael Sabatini
  • Fredric A. Birmingham
  • Stewart C. Bailey
  • J. B. Priestley
  • Mark Rondy
  • Agatha Christie


    • I enjoyed that one less than some of the others. In the very early Perry Mason titles, ESG was experimenting with the style and formula of his work as well as with his characters, so the results vary somewhat. He was also incredibly prolific, so not every book is golden. Two of his which I have enjoyed are The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe and The Case of the Careless Kitten.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks, good to know. I like to start a series by #1, because of many bad expriences I have had by not starting by #1, but I’ll keep that in mind, and may jump to these after volume 1. Thanks a lot

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You do know that this is issue is a magic trick that was arranged with the help of band leader Richard Himber right? if you look at the first page of each story and count to the word that corresponds with the page number it forces the same word!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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