31 December, 2019

#BookReview :: The Roman Hat Mystery (Ellery Queen Detective #1) by Ellery Queen

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Well, when you see the series name and the author name together, doesn’t it want to make you pick it up and give it a try? I found the concept very interesting when I discovered that Anthony Horowitz had written himself in as a main character in The Word Is Murder. And though the experience with the book wasn’t as pleasant as I had expected it to be, I still thought that the concept was interesting. As such, I picked up this series only to find out that Ellery Queen is the pseudonym of Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, the original creators of the series.

Anyhow, coming to the book, it was like being transported to a completely different era and getting the glimpses of how life was then. A man is murdered amidst the latest show of a Broadway theatre and the investigative officer on scene is Inspector Richard Queen. Inspector Queen often relies on the help from his son, Ellery Queen, who writes detective novels. The father and son duo take on this case but soon finds out that it would be difficult to catch the perpetrator. The murder victim had lived a murky and unsavory lifestyle and as such there is no dearth of suspects. Everyone whose life he had touched had a motive to kill him. But the biggest mystery is how and where the victim’s top hat disappeared to! Somehow, Ellery is convinced that if they can solve the mystery of the missing hat, they can solve the murder too.

I loved the setting of the book quite a bit. The age that the book is set in is quite different from now and eerily similar in some ways at the same time. The Broadway theatre background helped add drama to the plot and the mystery was actually simple enough. The wide cast of this book made it interesting, given that any of them could be the murderer. At 230 odd pages, it was a quick read with information and red herrings peppered through it.

For the first book of a series, the book fails to make an impression on the readers when it comes to its protagonists. The Queen father and son duo have their own quirks, but they actually come across as very ordinary and even annoying at times. The other thing that bothered me about this book when I read it was its language. It felt oddly simple and even disappointing to an extent. But I had been binge reading Rex Stout and Ellis Peters at the same time. So, it could be the contrast that made it feel way too simple.

All in all, I do plan to read more of this series as I have been told that it does improve.

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