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American Gun Mystery

American Gun Mystery by Ellery Queen

ISBN10: 9997528514
ISBN13: 978-9997528513
Author: Ellery Queen
Book title: American Gun Mystery
Publisher: Frederick A Stokes (June 1933)
Language: English
Category: Thrillers & Suspense
Size PDF: 1316 kb
Size ePub: 1596 kb
Size Fb2: 1257 kb
Rating: 4.6/5
Votes: 650
Pages: 308 pages

American Gun Mystery by Ellery Queen


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When a Western star is gunned down at a rodeo, Ellery Queen saddles up to solve the mystery. Buck Horne has roped thousands of cattle, slugged his way out of dozens of saloons, and shot plenty of men dead in the street--but always on the backlot. He's a celluloid cowboy, and his career is nearly kaput. The real box office draw is his daughter, Kit, a brawling beauty who can outshoot any rascal the studio has to offer. Desperate for a comeback, Buck joins Wild Bill Grant's traveling rodeo for a show in New York, hoping to land one last movie contract. But he has scarcely mounted his horse when he falls to the dirt. It wasn't age that made him slip--it was the bullet in his heart. Watching from the stands are Ellery Queen, debonair sleuth, and his police detective father. They are New Yorkers through and through, but to solve the rodeo killing, the Queens must learn to talk cowboy.

Reviews

Wnex
This is an early Ellery Queen mystery written and set in the early 1930s. These early Queen mysteries are somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand the stories are usually fairly cleverly plotted and the murders ingenuous. On the other hand Ellery Queen is depicted as an upper class stuffed shirt with extremely annoying speech patterns. Think of Philo Vance on a particularly bad day. The reader is usually prepared to put up with the latter to enjoy the former but fortunately Queen the author humanizes Queen the detective as the series of books approached the 1940s.

To my mind The American Gun Mystery is one of the weaker early Queen novels. The plot involves murder during a rodeo in a crowded 20,000 seat arena. Trying to plot a baffling mystery given such circumstances is a very ambitious task which Queen does not quite pull off. Granted, in any "classic" murder mystery the reader grants the author a certain literary license in the way of plausibility. In real life complex murder plans are impossible to pull off because no murderer can possibly control the large number of real life variables. All we ask of an author is not to stretch our credulity too far. At several points in Queen's plot he asks way too much of the reader. Without going into details it is beyond reason that with 20,000 potential witnesses that the murderer and the subsequent hiding of the gun will not be witnessed by scores of people in the act. Certainly no rational murderer would risk this.

Other annoyances are the completely unnecessary framing sequence and introduction by "J.J.McC." This serves no real purpose and Queen thankfully jettisoned it as he moved away from strictly "whodunits" to "whydunits".

Still, the book is not a waste of time but I would not recommend it as one's first Ellery Queen book. I am reviewing the Kindle edition of the book and everything is properly formatted. There are a few "OCR" gremlins where "along" becomes "alone" for example but these are few and far between.

Uriel
One of my all time favorite mystery series! You will become addicted and buy them all! I did!

Phain
As all Ellery Queen books this is a good read. It is a cut below the first four in the series in that there are a couple holes that a good editor should have caught. Have no fear though it will keep you guessing up to and past the traditional "challenge to the reader".

ZEr0
WOW!

Onath
A slow start…a complicated end…and much confusion in the middle. Ellery deduced correctly, but leaves ambiguity as to motive. I liked others better, but will keep reading these.

Ranicengi
The American Gun Mystery (1933) is among the earliest Ellery Queen stories. The murder of Buck Horne, an immensely popular star of early western silent films, occurs in full view of 20,000 rodeo fans in the Colosseum, New York's newest and greatest sports arena. Buck is leading forty cowboys around the arena in full gallop with guns held high firing blanks into the air when he falls from his horse and is trampled. His death is no accident; a small caliber bullet had entered his heart. As guests of the stadium's owner, Ellery and his father Inspector Queen had box office seats almost directly above where Buck Horne died.

The setting seemed rather fanciful to me, a huge rodeo in New York in 1932, and yet I have since learned (by way of the Internet) that outdoor rodeos had been held for many years in Madison Square Garden. In 1926 the rodeo was moved indoors into the old Madison Square Garden and was called the World Series Rodeo. And, in the particular year 1932 Woodward Maurice "Tex Ritter" was the featured singer at the Madison Square Garden rodeo. The rodeo setting was indeed more authentic than I had imagined.

Regardless, another aspect of The American Gun Mystery does require some suspension of belief. Inspector Queen orders a careful search of all 20,000 attendees for the missing murder weapon. Even Ellery himself comments that the search procedures were getting out of hand; earlier EQ stories had involved searching the patrons in a theatre, shoppers in a department store, and personnel, patients, and visitors in a hospital, but searching 20,000 rodeo fans is simply too much. Despite this Herculean effort, the murder weapon is not found.

Two newer 1930s technologies - ballistics analysis and editing of newsreel films - play key roles and warrant separate chapters. The audience search (not to mention that of the cowboys themselves) had recovered more than a hundred weapons, and we learn how the science of ballistics matches a bullet to a particular gun. Likewise, recording live sporting events on celluloid film was still relatively new and the photographic capture of Buck Horne's death was quite a sensation. However, both promising technologies seem to provide only negative results: all the guns are eliminated and the film only details what is already known.

Ellery Queen's summation (after his trademark Challenge to the Reader) is logically sound as always, and yet I found a key point, one dependent on a rather unlikely mistake made not by one individual, but by two, to be highly improbable. I do admit to missing entirely the key evidence that pointed Ellery in the right direction, although I did catch a critical secondary clue (and others as well). Nonetheless, once again I was no match for dazzling logic of Ellery Queen.

My copy of The American Gun Mystery is a 1975 paperback reprint by Ballantine Books. This story is not easy to find, but fanciful or not, The American Gun Mystery compares favorably to other early Ellery Queen mysteries and is worth the effort it takes to locate a copy. I have not seen a copy, but apparently this story was published in a Mercury paperback edition in 1951 titled Death at the Rodeo.

Quellik
One of the interesting things about reading Ellery Queen is that these books serve as a window into a very specific time in American history. Ellery encounters a mystery with a Will Rogers type surrounded by stereotype starlets, society eunuchs and prizefighters. The mystery was not quite as baffling as it was portrayed or else the Inspector is really slowing down.

Truly disappointing. The surprise "twist" about the first death is utterly unbelievable. And in the end, they refuse to disclose the motive for the murder because it was confessed in private and was too personal! Huh???


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