Abigail Doorn lies on a trolley in the Dutch Memorial Hospital, waiting to be anaesthetised. A highly recognisable doctor, due to his mannerisms and his limp, yet wearing a full facemask and head covering, appears to check up on her and leave, only for the nurse to find Mrs Doorn has been strangled on the trolley. Why would someone impersonate Dr Janney in order to commit the crime? Luckily Ellery Queen was on site when it happened.
The third Ellery Queen novel, The Dutch Shoe Mystery shows similarities with its predecessors but begins to make Ellery the clear protagonist in the story, relegating his supporting cast to the sidelines. We begin to see a little more into his thinking and the character benefits from this. How odd that given such character development, however slight, this novel is set before The Roman Hat Mystery and The French Powder Mystery, although goodness knows why this information (appearing in a foot-note) is important, as it seemed completely unimportant to me. Did I miss something? Anyway, we see for the first time some frustration on Ellery’s part as the solution seems to be eluding him and this attempt to humanise him a bit extends the novel beyond the basic puzzle of the earlier/later two books.
Again, it’s a fairplay mystery, but, for the first time, something actual happens between the beginning and the end – a second murder. Yippee!! And while the set-up has echoes of other books by other authors, notably Lord Edgware Dies aka Thirteen At Dinner by Agatha Christie, the possibly-expected solution is not the case – that’s not really a spoiler, as this is established beyond reasonable doubt halfway through the book. Some of you know what I’m talking about, those who don’t, please don’t think about it too hard. The trend that I mentioned about the overlooked suspect continues here, but, as with the earlier books, there are many people who are potentially overlookable, so this doesn’t really help the armchair sleuth.
So, another well put together exercise in logic, with added character thrown in. Just don’t think too carefully about the fact that one character clearly must know who the murderer is and I’m pretty sure a bunch of New York cops from the 1930’s could have got the info out of him before the second murder.
Oh, no obvious dated phrases that I noticed this time, but there is one cracking Dutch accent – “Abigail was a funny womans – a wery funny womans”. How come no-one writes accents phonetically any more? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way).