Classic Corner Review: The French Powder Mystery – Ellery Queen

Mass Market Paperback: 255 pages
Publisher: Signet (November 1, 1969)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 045104083X
ISBN-13: 978-0451040831
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Winifred Marchbanks French – Victim.
Cyrus French – Rich Merchant.
Ellery Queen – Author and Amateur Detective.
Inspector Richard Queen – Homicide Detective.


The woman of a wealthy store owner is discovered dead in the store display window. Ellery Queen and his father are called in to find out who killed the woman and why.


The second in the Ellery Queen series of Who Dun It’s. These are written in a classic style where the story is presented, and then as in all the early Queen books, the reader is given the chance to solve the mystery. All the clues are given throughout the story, and while it’s the fourth Ellery Queen story I’ve read, I’ve yet to be able to solve one of them, though I come close at times.

The characters, as would be expected for this time period are rather cookie cutter. Authors of this time period spent more time on prose and plot it seems than on character development, so from a reader’s perspective it’s definitely a story driven novel.

I love these stories though, along with a lot of the classic mysteries, and this one kept me entertained. The language is a bit archaic and dry, so some readers may not be able to get involved in the storyline. If you can get through that though, and enjoy authors such as Doyle and Christie, then I think you’d like this. I’d rate it as PG or PG-13 due to the content, but I definitely recommend it for one of those rainy day, stay at home mysteries.

About the Author

Ellery Queen was a pen name created and shared by two cousins, Frederic Dannay (1905–1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905–1971), as well as the name of their most famous detective. Born in Brooklyn, they spent forty-two years writing, editing, and anthologizing under the name, gaining a reputation as the foremost American authors of the Golden Age “fair play” mystery. Although eventually famous on television and radio, Queen’s first appearance came in 1928, when the cousins won a mystery-writing contest with the book that would eventually be published as The Roman Hat Mystery.

Their character was an amateur detective who uses his spare time to assist his police inspector uncle in solving baffling crimes. Besides writing the Queen novels, Dannay and Lee cofounded Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, one of the most influential crime publications of all time. Although Dannay outlived his cousin by nine years, he retired Queen upon Lee’s death.

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