I read my first Ellery Queen novel to participate in the monthly book challenge run at Past Offences during October. At least I think it was my first Ellery Queen novel; surely I’d have remembered if I’d had such a wretched experience before.
THE GREEK COFFIN MYSTERY starts out being about a missing will (belonging to the Greek in the coffin who is presumed to have died of natural causes) but there is soon a different dead body. Then some more. I lost count. The shenanigans surrounding the missing will and corpses piling up are investigated by a motley collection of New York Police, a district attorney and two members of the Queen family. In all honesty I didn’t have a lot to start with but by the time I came to the end of this dreary tome I had completely lost interest in who done what and how or why they bothered.
It is simply a preposterous book populated by pompous, implausible people talking endlessly about things no one could possibly care about. The hero of our story has about four goes at a denouement before finally stumbling upon a culprit, though why anyone, even a loving father, would be bothering to listen to him at that point is beyond me. But the ludicrousness of the plot twists and the inanity of the rabbit holes down which the story wanders (there are pages and pages devoted to a particular brand of typewriter’s upper row of keys for example and a very long and largely inaccurate description of colour blindness) all pale into insignificance next to the gobsmacking amount of bigotry on display. I know I have to make allowances for the thing being written in a different time but seriously…how much casual racism and sexism am I meant to make allowances for? And is there a limit on the excruciating physical descriptions of all and sundry that make it clear only people of a certain class are worth knowing I have to read? And when exactly did we stop thinking it was OK to poke fun at people with intellectual disabilities?
I know Ellery Queen (the fictional man and the two cousins who created him) has legions of devotees but you can count me out. And I don’t care if it does get me thrown out of the crime fiction fan club.