I hadn't heard of Ellery Queen till I started blogging. Then I got to know that not only is he (actually the pseudonym of two American cousins) a well-known mystery writer but also one of the Big Four. So I went searching for his books and was happy enough to discover that some of his books were available for free download at the Open Library.
The Murderer is a Fox begins with a bang. The whole town of Wrightsville has gathered to welcome back their own local boy who has become a war-hero. Davy Fox is returning to glory after having saved his friend Binks from the Japanese. Among those waiting to welcome Davy are his wife Emily, and his aunt and uncle, Linda and Talbot, who had brought-up both Emily and Davy.
Juxtaposed with the town's chest-thumping and valedictory speeches are the thoughts of the hero himself. Still shell-shocked and filled with the survivor's guilt-complex, Davy finds himself at odds with the town's expectations of him as a hero. In fact, he remembers well the time when the town had treated him as a pariah since his father Bayard was convicted of killing his wife, Julia.
Compounding all these problems are his suspicions about his own wife Emily whom he suspects of infidelity. Convinced that he too will end up like his father and kill his own wife, Davy is a wreck of a man. The distraught Emily than decides to take the help of Ellery Queen and persuades him to reopen Bayard's case because only the innocence of his father will convince Davy that he himself hasn't inherited any sins of the father. Queen does so and unmasks the real killer.
Or does he? There are books in which you feel the author has taken the easy way out. So it is with this book. Queen is so happy playing happy-families that he fails to come up with a convincing conclusion.
More than the mystery I was interested in the passages related to the history of the time. Davy recuperates in a hospital in Karachi, and there is an interesting note by the publisher at the beginning of the text:
Note to the Reader: In accordance with wartime paper regulations the size and thickness of this volume have been reduced. The actual wordage, however, has not been cut in any way and the book contains three complete, full-length mystery stories.
Not very convincing text as regards Queen's status but I'll be reading more of him.
First Line: "WHAT TIME IS IT NOW, TALBOT?" Emily Fox asked her husband.
Title: The Murderer is a Fox
Author: Ellery Queen
Publication Details: NY: Little, Brown & Co., 1945
I read the book online at Open Library.
Entry for Friday's Forgotten Books