The Classic Corner Review: The Devil to Pay – Ellery Queen

Paperback: 182 pages
Publisher: The Langtail Press (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1780020414
ISBN-13: 978-1780020419
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Ellery Queen – Screenwriter/Detective
Valerie Jardin – Daughter of Wealthy Financier
Solly Spaeth – Wealthy Financier and the murder victim.
Walter Spaeth – Valeries boyfriend and Solly’s son.
Rhys Jardin – Solly’s partner and Valerie’s father.


Solly Spaeth has managed through business dealings to put his partner in debt. As a result, Rhys Jardin is selling off all his worldly goods. Solly Spaeth’s son, Walter, hires Ellery Queen to secretly buy all the goods/properties being auctioned off. Then Solly Spaeth is murdered. Everyone becomes a suspect. Who will turn out to the the murder, to find out, you’ll need to read The Devil to Pay.


I found this to be a very intriguing story, however it was the first Ellery Queen novel that I can recall reading, and from what I’ve heard from others, is a departure from the previous novels that had more of a puzzle solving aspect to them. That did seem to be missing somewhat. I was able to peg who done it about halfway through the book, however, I did not figure out how it was done until it was revealed, so there were still pleasant surprises.

For those mystery lovers and puzzle solvers, this would be a great afternoon read. At a small 150 or so pages, it’s a very quick story to read. If you haven’t read Ellery Queen though prior, I think I’d start with something like The Roman Hat Mystery. while I’ve not read it, I’ve heard it’s one of his best. If however, you are just looking for something to sit on the beach and read, or to take you away for a while, then definitely give this novel or any of the others by Ellery Queen a shot. I think you’d find them enjoyable.

About the Author

Ellery Queen was both a famous fictional detective and the pen name of two cousins born in Brooklyn in 1905. Created by Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay as an entry in a mystery-writing contest, Ellery Queen is regarded by many as the definitive American whodunit celebrity.

When their first novel, The Roman Hat Mystery (1929), became an immediate success, the cousins gave up their business careers and took to writing dozens of novels, hundreds of radio scripts and countless short stories about the gentleman detective and writer who shared an apartment on West 87th Street with his father, Inspector Queen of the NYPD.

Dannay was said to have largely produced detailed outlines of the plots, clues and characters while Lee did most of the writing. As the success of Ellery Queen grew, the character’s legacy continued through radio, television and film. In 1941, the cousins founded Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Edited by Queen for more than forty years, the periodical is still considered one of the most influential crime fiction magazines in American history.

Additionally, Queen edited a number of collections and anthologies, and his critical writings are the major works on the detective short story. Under their collective pseudonym, the cousins were given several Edgar awards by the Mystery Writers of America, including the 1960 Grand Master Award. Their novels are examples of the classic ‘fair play’ whodunit mystery of the Golden Age, where plot is always paramount. Manfred B. Lee, born Manford Lepofsky, died in 1971. Frederic Dannay, born Daniel Nathan, died in 1982.

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