stilted dialogue and a ludicrous plot

Stilted dialogue, a ludicrous plot: On the pleasures of the vintage whodunit

When I read this I felt like pumping my fist in the air and yelling, “Yes!” (but, you know, I was at work, so I didn’t).

And the article is right, the first Ellery Queen novel, The Roman Hat Mystery, was pretty dismal. The authors admitted that themselves. But later ones were often really good, including The Chinese Orange Mystery, which is mentioned in the article. That was one of my father’s favorites, because the setup is so bizarre: an unknown man is killed in a locked room in a hotel, and all of his clothes are reversed — back-to-front — and every piece of furniture in the room is reversed (bookcases facing the wall and so on), and the reason, which I won’t reveal here, is so simple.

On the other hand, The Benson Murder Case (the first Philo Vance book) is quite good, though some of the later ones were better (and, yes, some were much, much worse).

In the mystery story I’m writing now, Jan Seet’s books start off the whole story, and I can say with some assurance that Ellery Queen, S. S. Van Dyne (the author of the Philo Vance books), John Dickson Carr, and Rex Stout (the creator of Nero Wolfe) are well represented in those cartons which have been stored in the Arkright family garage.

(Of course, now that I think of it, “stilted dialogue and a ludicrous plot” could also apply to quite a bit of Shakespeare.)

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