The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen (1934), was my first taste of American pseudo-author Ellery Queen, who seems to have been renowned for writing mysteries with a leaning towards the hard-boiled police drama.
In this story, Ellery Queen, who is also the main character of the series, is called to solve a mystery involving a body found wearing his clothes back to front.
I did not enjoy this book at all. Not one bit. At several points, I was tempted to DNF the book, but I only persevered to find out what the solution to the puzzle was.
The problems I had with the book were largely the same issues I had with The Hollow Man: it was a work of someone who didn’t just try to be clever but wanted the reader to know at every opportunity how clever the author, or in this case authors, were and how insufficiently clever the reader is.
The plot was preposterous from the start, but what made things worse was that the main characters was an annoying brat, whose supporting cast of characters we looked down on by the main characters just as much as the – or rather this – reader was.
And all of this was wrapped up in the sort of overly-simplistic narration that reminded me of another book I disliked immensely, Dorothy B. Hughes’ The So Blue Marble.
In addition to the issues I had with the characters, plot, pace, and style, the book also included an onslaught of slang and idioms.
I don’t mind slang or local / temporal colour at all, but it still has to work in the format, which in this case is the written book. Not a radio programme, not a stage play, it’s textual. We don’t get the benefit of tone of voice or facial expression with the slang and guffaws (in the case of The Hollow Man), and I might have liked both books a little better if we had had that.
It annoyed me even more that the characters kept talking in this slang to each other – something I don’t appreciate in any book – without actually saying anything of substance. To me this book was just one long ramble of nothing but stuffing.
Yeah, sorry, this book did not work for me at all.