The Classic Corner Review: The Roman Hat Mystery – Ellery Queen

Mass Market Paperback: 239 pages
Publisher: Signet Books (February 6, 1979)
ISBN-10: 0451084705
ISBN-13: 978-0451084705
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Richard Queen – Retired Detective
Ellery Queen – Author and Amateur Detective
Monte Field – The Victim


At a theatre play, a show called Gunplay is being performed. In the audience is Monte Field. This will be the last play Monte Field will ever see. Tonight he’s being murdered. It will be up to you, Richard Queen, and his son Ellery Queen to take the witness testimony, piece together the clues, and figure out who killed Monte and why.


This was the debut novel for the detective character Ellery Queen. The authors begin with a long list of all the possible characters. Then there are maps of the crime scene. Throughout the book, like in all good mysteries, the reader is given the opportunity to solve the crime. In fact, The characters break the third wall and step out of the book before the reveal to give the reader a chance to put it all together.

Unlike a previous novel, The Devil to Pay, I found myself unable to solve this one. The ending was a surprise, but when all the pieces were laid on the board, the solution made complete sense.

If you’re a fan of the old style of mysteries where you have to solve the puzzle, rather than the thriller type, pick this book up. I think you’ll find it’s a good entry into the series. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Queens adventures as time goes on.

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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