Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Tragedy of Z- A Drury Lane Mystery by Ellery Queen

I picked this book for the London place name theme I am doing for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge hosted by Bev. This book does not take place in London but in New York but has a London place name in its title.

The story is narrated by Patience Thumm, daugther of ex-Inpsector Thumm of New York Police. Elihu Clay, a businessman, requests the Thumms to investigate his partner Dr. Ira Fawcett, brother of Senator Joel Fawcett for fraud. Patience and Thumm stay at Elihu Clay's place trying to investigate the Fawcetts. They end up investigating a murder-murder of Senator Fawcett. Senator Fawcett is found murdered in his home. Who murdered him and why? Aaron Dow newly released prisoner from County jail is suspected. Though Patience logically proves(?) that Dow could not have committed the murder, nobody listens to her and Dow is arrested for the murder. Drury Lane is a famous retired Shakespearean actor who also investigates cases. Drury doesn't actively get involved in the case until the end.

Thumms go to investigate something, when their investigation is stopped for some reason, why don't they come back home? How long will they stay in somebody's house doing nothing? Don't they have anything else to do? And what happened to their initial investigation?

Patience is very observant, logical and is good at deductive reasoning and proves her skills early on. It has all the elements of a great detective story, mysterious past, spies, mysterious stranger leaving the premises, footprint in the ash etc. There are some codes to solve. But you cannot solve the code. You need to wait for Drury to do it. I lost interest somewhere on the way. I hardly ever abandon a book and not losing interest is never the reason. So I burrowed away to dig up a diamond in the end.

The finale is interesting, everything is summed up nicely, Drury Lane sets up an electrifying scene, explains the whole thing in a logical way eliminating suspects and finally revealing the murderer. If not for anything, the climax alone makes this book worth reading. I did not guess the killer.

I do wish Patience Thumm had more to do. Despite her intelligence, observation skills and deductive reasoning, she just solves the minor things, leaving the major things for Drury Lane. There are some bits of humour but very very little, after all it is the Tragedy of Z.

The book was orginally published in 1933 under the pseudonym of Barnaby Ross. I borrowed it from the Open Library.

My post for Crime Fiction Alphabet letter T.


Anonymous said...

That's a very interesting choice for T. People usually associate Ellery Queen with the 'Queen team's' namesake sleuth. So it's nice that you highlighted one of the Drury Lane stories.

Unknown said...

Sounds like a case for the book to be made into a short story with Drury Lane showing up sooner. It's a shame that such an interesting ending is spoiled by a weak beginning/middle. As an aside, the title reminded me of The Lost City of Z which in its own way is a mystery and a tale of investigation and detection but in real life.

TracyK said...

Interesting and useful review. I got bogged down in the middle in the mystery I read for T also. I want to try Ellery Queen novels again. Read them years ago, but don't know if I read any Drury Lane mysteries.

Anonymous said...

Great to see a review of this little-known gem from the Queen team.

The four 'Drury Lane Cases' are best read in order if you can: TRAGEDY OF X, Y, Z and DRURY LANE'S LAST CASE - certainly the last should be read last! My personal favourite is probably THE TRAGEDY OF Y.


srivalli said...

Thanks Margot, Peter, Tracy and Sergio for stopping by!
@ Peter The lost city of Z looks worth investigating. Will look for it.
@Sergio I will look for the other books in the series and read them in order. Thanks for the suggestion.