A novella and eight stories starring America’s most clever detective
Is it possible for a man to lift himself off the ground by his shoelaces and fly away? Can a water buffalo transform itself into a little boy? What is science to make of a dead man climbing out of his coffin, escaping his tomb . . . and breaking into song? Such incidents seem impossible, but stranger things have happened at the home of old Sylvester Mayhew. When Ellery Queen, the world-famous amateur detective, is called to Mayhew’s ramshackle old mansion, he expects to be investigating an ordinary hoax. Instead, he finds murder.
The novella The Lamp of God is vintage Ellery Queen—puzzling, atmospheric, and utterly delightful. Paired with eight short stories, including “Man Bites Dog” and “Long Shot,” it is simply irresistible.
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About the Author
Although eventually famous on television and radio, Queen’s first appearance came in 1928, when the cousins won a mystery-writing contest with the book that was later published as The Roman Hat Mystery. Their character was an amateur detective who uses his spare time to assist his police inspector uncle in solving baffling crimes. Besides writing the Queen novels, Dannay and Lee cofounded Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, one of the most influential crime publications of all time. Although Dannay outlived his cousin by nine years, he retired Queen upon Lee’s death.
Ellery Queen was a pen name created and shared by two cousins, Frederic Dannay (1905–1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905–1971), as well as the name of their most famous detective. Born in Brooklyn, they spent forty-two years writing, editing, and anthologizing under the name, gaining a reputation as the foremost American authors of the Golden Age “fair play” mystery. Although eventually famous on television and radio, Queen’s first appearance came in 1928, when the cousins won a mystery-writing contest with the book that would eventually be published as The Roman Hat Mystery. Their character was an amateur detective who uses his spare time to assist his police inspector uncle in solving baffling crimes. Besides writing the Queen novels, Dannay and Lee cofounded Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, one of the most influential crime publications of all time. Although Dannay outlived his cousin by nine years, he retired Queen upon Lee’s death.
Read an Excerpt
The New Adventures of Ellery Queen
By Ellery Queen
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 1940 Frederick A. Stokes Company
All rights reserved.
If a story began: "Once upon a time in a house cowering in wilderness there lived an old and eremitical creature named Mayhew, a crazy man who had buried two wives and lived a life of death; and this house was known as 'The Black House'" — if a story began in this fashion, it would strike no one as especially remarkable. There are people like that who live in houses like that, and very often mysteries materialize like ectoplasm about their wild-eyed heads.
Now however disorderly Mr. Ellery Queen may be by habit, mentally he is an orderly person. His neckties and shoes may be strewn about his bedroom helter-skelter, but inside his skull hums a perfectly oiled machine, functioning as neatly and inexorably as the planetary system. So if there was a mystery about one Sylvester Mayhew, deceased, and his buried wives and gloomy dwelling, you may be sure the Queen brain would seize upon it and worry it and pick it apart and get it all laid out in neat and shiny rows. Rationality, that was it. No esoteric mumbo-jumbo could fool that fellow. Lord, no! His two feet were planted solidly on God's good earth, and one and one made two — always — and that's all there was to that.
Of course, Macbeth had said that stones have been known to move and trees to speak; but, pshaw! for these literary fancies. In this day and age, with its Cominforms, its wars of peace and its rocketry experiments? Nonsense! The truth is, Mr. Queen would have said, there is something about the harsh, cruel world we live in that's very rough on miracles. Miracles just don't happen any more, unless they are miracles of stupidity or miracles of national avarice. Everyone with a grain of intelligence knows that.
"Oh, yes," Mr. Queen would have said; "there are yogis, voodoos, fakirs, shamans, and other tricksters from the effete East and primitive Africa, but nobody pays any attention to such pitiful monkeyshines — I mean, nobody with sense. This is a reasonable world and everything that happens in it must have a reasonable explanation."
You couldn't expect a sane person to believe, for example, that a three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood, veritable human being could suddenly stoop, grab his shoelaces, and fly away. Or that a water-buffalo could change into a golden-haired little boy before your eyes. Or that a man dead one hundred and thirty-seven years could push aside his tombstone, step out of his grave, yawn, and then sing three verses of Mademoiselle from Armentières. Or even, for that matter, that a stone could move or a tree speak — yea, though it were in the language of Atlantis or Mu.
Or ... could you?
The tale of Sylvester Mayhew's house is a strange tale. When what happened happened, proper minds tottered on their foundations and porcelain beliefs threatened to shiver into shards. Before the whole fantastic and incomprehensible business was done, God Himself came into it. Yes, God came into the story of Sylvester Mayhew's house, and that is what makes it quite the most remarkable adventure in which Mr. Ellery Queen, that lean and indefatigable agnostic, has ever become involved.
The early mysteries in the Mayhew case were trivial — mysteries merely because certain pertinent facts were lacking; pleasantly provocative mysteries, but scarcely savorous of the supernatural.
Ellery was sprawled on the hearthrug before the hissing fire that raw January morning, debating with himself whether it was more desirable to brave the slippery streets and biting wind on a trip to Centre Street in quest of amusement, or to remain where he was in idleness but comfort, when the telephone rang.
It was Thorne on the wire. Ellery, who never thought of Thorne without perforce visualizing a human monolith — a long-limbed, gray-thatched male figure with marbled cheeks and agate eyes, the whole man coated with a veneer of ebony, was rather startled. Thorne was excited; every crack and blur in his voice spoke eloquently of emotion. It was the first time, to Ellery's recollection, that Thorne had betrayed the least evidence of human feeling.
"What's the matter?" Ellery demanded. "Nothing's wrong with Ann, I hope?" Ann was Thorne's wife.
"No, no." Thorne spoke hoarsely and rapidly, as if he had been running.
"Where the deuce have you been? I saw Ann only yesterday and she said she hadn't heard from you for almost a week. Of course, your wife's used to your preoccupation with those interminable legal affairs, but an absence of six days —"
"Listen to me, Queen, and don't hold me up. I must have your help. Can you meet me at Pier 54 in half an hour? That's North River."
Thorne mumbled something that sounded absurdly like: "Thank God!" and hurried on: "Pack a bag. For a couple of days. And a revolver. Especially a revolver, Queen."
"I see," said Ellery, not seeing at all.
"I'm meeting the Cunarder Caronia. Docking this morning. I'm with a man by the name of Reinach, Dr. Reinach. You're my colleague; get that? Act stern and omnipotent. Don't be friendly. Don't ask him — or me — questions. And don't allow yourself to be pumped. Understood?"
"Understood," said Ellery, "but not exactly clear. Anything else?"
"Call Ann for me. Give her my love and tell her I shan't be home for days yet, but that you're with me and that I'm all right. And ask her to telephone my office and explain matters to Crawford."
"Do you mean to say that not even your partner knows what you've been doing?"
But Thorne had hung up.
Ellery replaced the receiver, frowning. It was stranger than strange. Thorne had always been a solid citizen, a successful attorney who led an impeccable private life and whose legal practice was dry and unexciting. To find old Thorne entangled in a web of mystery ...
Ellery drew a happy breath, telephoned Mrs. Thorne, tried to sound reassuring, yelled for Djuna, hurled some clothes into a bag, loaded his .38 police revolver with a grimace, scribbled a note for Inspector Queen, dashed downstairs and jumped into the cab Djuna had summoned, and landed on Pier 54 with thirty seconds to spare.
There was something terribly wrong with Thorne, Ellery saw at once, even before he turned his attention to the vast fat man by the lawyer's side. Thorne was shrunken within his Scotch-plaid greatcoat like a pupa which had died prematurely in its cocoon. He had aged years in the few weeks since Ellery had last seen him. His ordinarily sleek cobalt cheeks were covered with a straggly stubble. Even his clothing looked tired and uncared-for. And there was a glitter of furtive relief in his bloodshot eyes as he pressed Ellery's hand that was, to one who knew Thorne's self-sufficiency and aplomb, almost pathetic.
But he merely remarked: "Oh, hello, there, Queen. We've a longer wait than we anticipated, I'm afraid. Want you to shake hands with Dr. Herbert Reinach. Doctor, this is Ellery Queen."
"'D'you do," said Ellery curtly, touching the man's immense gloved hand. If he was to be omnipotent, he thought, he might as well be rude, too.
"Surprise, Mr. Thorne?" said Dr. Reinach in the deepest voice Ellery had ever heard; it rumbled up from the caverns of his chest like the echo of thunder. His little purplish eyes were very, very cold.
"A pleasant one, I hope," said Thorne.
Ellery snatched a glance at his friend's face as he cupped his hands about a cigarette, and he read approval there. If he had struck the right tone, he knew how to act thenceforth. He flipped the match away and turned abruptly to Thorne. Dr. Reinach was studying him in a half-puzzled, half-amused way.
"Where's the Caronia?"
"Held up in quarantine," said Thorne. "Somebody's seriously ill aboard with some disease or other and there's been difficulty in clearing her passengers. It will take hours, I understand. Suppose we settle down in the waiting room for a bit."
They found places in the crowded room, and Ellery set his bag between his feet and disposed himself so that he was in a position to catch every expression on his companions' faces. There was something in Thorne's repressed excitement, an even more piquing aura enveloping the fat doctor, that violently whipped his curiosity.
"Alice," said Thorne in a casual tone, as if Ellery knew who Alice was, "is probably becoming impatient. But that's a family trait with the Mayhews, from the little I saw of old Sylvester. Eh, Doctor? It's trying, though, to come all the way from England only to be held up on the threshold."
So they were to meet an Alice Mayhew, thought Ellery, arriving from England on the Caronia. Good old Thorne! He almost chuckled aloud. "Sylvester" was obviously a senior Mayhew, some relative of Alice's.
Dr. Reinach fixed his little eyes on Ellery's bag and rumbled politely: "Are you going away somewhere, Mr. Queen?"
Then Reinach did not know Ellery was to accompany them — wherever they were bound for.
Thorne stirred in the depths of his greatcoat, rustling like a sack of desiccated bones. "Queen's coming back with me, Dr. Reinach." There was something brittle and hostile in his voice.
The fat man blinked, his eyes buried beneath half-moons of damp flesh. "Really?" he said, and by contrast his bass voice was tender.
"Perhaps I should have explained," said Thorne abruptly. "Queen is a colleague of mine, Doctor. This case has interested him."
"Case?" said the fat man.
"Legally speaking. I really hadn't the heart to deny him the pleasure of helping me — ah — protect Alice Mayhew's interests. I trust you won't mind?"
This was a deadly game, Ellery became certain. Something important was at stake, and Thorne in his stubborn way was determined to defend it by force or guile.
Reinach's puffy lids dropped over his eyes as he folded his paws on his stomach. "Naturally, naturally not," he said in a hearty tone. "Only too happy to have you, Mr. Queen. A little unexpected, perhaps, but delightful surprises are as essential to life as to poetry. Eh?" And he chuckled.
Samuel Johnson, thought Ellery, recognizing the source of the doctor's remark. The physical analogy struck him. There was iron beneath those layers of fat and a good brain under that dolichocephalic skull. The man sat there on the waiting-room bench like an octopus, lazy and inert and peculiarly indifferent to his surroundings. Indifference — that was it, thought Ellery! The man was a colossal remoteness, as vague and darkling as a storm cloud on an empty horizon.
Thorne said in a weary voice: "Suppose we have lunch. I'm famished."
By three in the afternoon Ellery felt old and worn. Several hours of nervous, cautious silence, threading his way smiling among treacherous shoals, had told him just enough to put him on guard. He often felt knotted-up and tight inside when a crisis loomed or danger threatened from an unknown quarter. Something extraordinary was going on.
As they stood on the pier watching the Caronia's bulk being nudged alongside, he chewed on the scraps he had managed to glean during the long, heavy, pregnant hours. He knew definitely now that the man called Sylvester Mayhew was dead, that he had been pronounced paranoic, that his house was buried in an almost inaccessible wilderness on Long Island. Alice Mayhew, somewhere on the decks of the Caronia doubtless straining her eyes pierward, was the dead man's daughter, parted from her father since childhood.
And he had placed the remarkable figure of Dr. Reinach in the puzzle. The fat man was Sylvester Mayhew's half-brother. He had also acted as Mayhew's physician during the old man's last illness. This illness and death seemed to have been very recent, for there had been some talk of "the funeral" in terms of fresh if detached sorrow. There was also a Mrs. Reinach glimmering unsubstantially in the background, and a queer old lady who was the dead man's sister. But what the mystery was, or why Thorne was so perturbed, Ellery could not figure out.
The liner tied up to the pier at last. Officials scampered about, whistles blew, gangplanks appeared, passengers disembarked in droves to the accompaniment of the usual howls and embraces.
Interest crept into Dr. Reinach's little eyes, and Thorne was shaking.
"There she is!" croaked the lawyer. "I'd know her anywhere from her photographs. That slender girl in the brown turban!"
As Thorne hurried away Ellery studied the girl eagerly. She was anxiously scanning the crowd, a tall charming creature with an elasticity of movement more esthetic than athletic and a harmony of delicate feature that approached beauty. She was dressed so simply and inexpensively that he narrowed his eyes.
Thorne came back with her, patting her gloved hand and speaking quietly to her. Her face was alight and alive, and there was a natural gaiety in it which convinced Ellery that whatever mystery or tragedy lay before her, it was still unknown to her. At the same time there were certain signs about her eyes and mouth — fatigue, strain, worry, he could not put his finger on the exact cause — which puzzled him.
"I'm so glad," she murmured in a cultured voice, strongly British in accent. Then her face grew grave and she looked from Ellery to Dr. Reinach.
"This is your uncle, Miss Mayhew," said Thorne. "Dr. Reinach. This other gentleman is not, I regret to say, a relative. Mr. Ellery Queen, a colleague of mine."
"Oh," said the girl; and she turned to the fat man and said tremulously: "Uncle Herbert. How terribly odd. I mean — I've felt so all alone. You've been just a legend to me, Uncle Herbert, you and Aunt Sarah and the rest, and now ..." She choked a little as she put her arms about the fat man and kissed his pendulous cheek.
"My dear," said Dr. Reinach solemnly; and Ellery could have struck him for the Judas quality of his solemnity.
"But you must tell me everything! Father — how is Father? It seems so strange to be ... to be saying that."
"Don't you think, Miss Mayhew," said the lawyer quickly, "that we had better see you through the Customs? It's growing late and we have a long trip before us. Long Island, you know."
"Island?" Her candid eyes widened. "That sounds so exciting!"
"Well, it's not what you might think —"
"Forgive me. I'm acting the perfect gawk." She smiled. "I'm entirely in your hands, Mr. Thorne. Your letter was more than kind."
As they made their way toward the Customs, Ellery dropped a little behind and devoted himself to watching Dr. Reinach. But that vast lunar countenance was as inscrutable as a gargoyle.
Dr. Reinach drove. It was not Thorne's car; Thorne had a regal new Lincoln limousine and this was a battered if serviceable old Buick sedan.
The girl's luggage was strapped to the back and sides; Ellery was puzzled by the scantness of it — three small suitcases and a tiny steamer trunk. Did these four pitiful containers hold all of her worldly possessions?
Sitting beside the fat man, Ellery strained his ears. He paid little attention to the road Reinach was taking.
The two behind were silent for a long time. Then Thorne cleared his throat with an oddly ominous finality. Ellery saw what was coming; he had often heard that throat-clearing sound emanate from the mouths of judges pronouncing sentence of doom.
"We have something sad to tell you, Miss Mayhew. You may as well learn it now."
"Sad?" murmured the girl after a moment. "Sad? Oh, it's not —"
"Your father," said Thorne inaudibly. "He's dead."
She cried: "Oh!" in a small helpless voice; and then she grew quiet.
"I'm dreadfully sorry to have to greet you with such news," said Thorne in the silence. "We'd anticipated. ... And I realize how awkward it must be for you. After all, it's quite as if you had never known him at all. Love for a parent, I'm afraid, lies in direct ratio to the degree of childhood association. Without any association at all ..."
"It's a shock, of course," Alice said in a muffled voice. "And yet, as you say, he was a stranger to me, a mere name. As I wrote you, I was only a toddler when Mother got her divorce and took me off to England. I don't remember Father at all. And I've not seen him since, or heard from him."
"Yes," muttered the attorney.
"I might have learned more about Father if Mother hadn't died when I was six; but she did, and my people — her people — in England ... Uncle John died last fall. He was the last one. And then I was left all alone. When your letter came I was — I was so glad, Mr. Thorne. I didn't feel lonely any more. I was really happy for the first time in years. And now —" She broke off to stare out the window.
Dr. Reinach swiveled his massive head and smiled benignly. "But you're not alone, my dear. There's my unworthy self, and your Aunt Sarah, and Milly — Milly's my wife, Alice; naturally you wouldn't know anything about her — and there's even a husky young fellow named Keith who works about the place — bright lad who's come down in the world." He chuckled. "So you see there won't be a dearth of companionship for you."
Excerpted from The New Adventures of Ellery Queen by Ellery Queen. Copyright © 1940 Frederick A. Stokes Company. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Lamp of God,
The Adventure of the Treasure Hunt,
The Adventure of the Hollow Dragon,
The Adventure of the House of Darkness,
The Adventure of the Bleeding Portrait,
Man Bites Dog,
Mind Over Matter,
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