A peaceful evening at the Queen household is cut short by the arrival of some uninvited guests. Soon Ellery and his father are winging their way to the mysterious Bendigo Island, recruited by Abel Bendigo to protect his even-more-oddly named brother, King Bendigo.
King Bendigo is a man with his own private army, navy and airforce, a man of power who can topple governments, a man who brokers both war and peace and makes a handsome profit doing so. He is also a man who is receiving death threats, which, while he does not take them seriously, his brother does, which is why Ellery has been summoned.
As the threats become more and more specific, King Bendigo ensures he is safely sealed away at the time the threat is due to be carried out. But when an impossible bullet strikes him down, Ellery finds himself with one of the most baffling cases of his career.
Remember the Ellery Queen bibliography? One of the first projects of this blog and it’s been – whoops! – over a year since I last checked in with him. Sorry about that. Not entirely sure why, possibly as I could remember the next book in order, The Murderer Is A Fox, a little too well. So as the Readathon attempt is being extended past the ten books target, I thought it was time for another of my favourite writers and jumped ahead to a new book to me. There’ll be another later in the month as well, as Face To Face (if I can find it) fits the 1967 Book Challenge over at Past Offences. So how was this one?
Um… not good. Very not good I’m afraid.
There’s a scene just after halfway in the book – I won’t detail it as that far in counts as a spoiler – that is absolutely superb. The scene as the attempt is made on King’s life is done superbly well. Shame about the rest of the book.
Basically, it comes down to this. It’s a short story with a clever set-up with a lame solution that has been padded out to novel length. The character-driven mysteries of the Wrightsville books has gone – until an information dump of a chapter near the end – to be replaced with a mystery that should not have taken Ellery a day to solve, let alone a month or so. It takes an age to get going and an age to get to the point – and a fairly unsatisfying one too. And given Ellery’s reputation, why would anyone… never mind. Spoiler again.
So, it was good to touch base with Ellery again, but I miss those tightly over-plotted mysteries of the early days. Let’s see how things are as we jump ahead a little more later in the month.