Ellery Queen: Calamity Town

24 Festive Tasks: Door 14 – Diwali, Book:

Read a book about a homecoming or set in India or with Indian characters.


Murder and other mischief follows on the foot of a young man’s return to his home town, to marry (after all) the girl he’d jilted at the altar a few years before. — As this (audio)book’s cover is red and black, I could also have used it as my book for Kwanzaa, but it kind of felt strange to use a book set in small town white middle America for that particular square, so homecoming (and Diwali) it is.

Of the three books by (and featuring) Ellery Queen, this is the one I liked best — for one thing, the rather jarring competition and contrast between the oh-so-in-your-face intellectual amateur sleuth and his solidly working class cop father doesn’t feature here; for another, the setting is rather well done.  If Mr. Queen nevertheless fails to get past 3 1/2 stars yet again, it’s because both the murder method and the motive are filched from Agatha Christie, and the corresponding red herrings (which obviously also feature in a number of Christie books) are, IIRC, at one point referred to by Hercule Poirot as “that old wheeze” (or words to that effect) and cause him to add: “It was this that made me suspect you but immediately.”  So, by and large a pleasant enough ride for an afternoon — and it did feel apposite to read this while waiting for the outcome of the vote counting in a bunch of swing states essentially split between town and country — but hardly edge-of-your-seat suspense kind of stuff.  If this is considered one of Ellery Queen’s best mysteries, and based on my experience with the other two books I’ve read by / featuring him (or them, strictly speaking), I can’t imagine this ever becoming a favorite series of mine.


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