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A fine silk custom top-hat is missing from a crooked lawyer who was poisoned by lead alcohol in the Roman theater at the close of the second act, 9:55 pm. Inspector Richard Q, sneezing snuff; a thin, multi-faced, small "Old Man"; and the Inspector's large writer son Ellery, puffing cigarettes, investigate. They start with maps of theater, the victim's bedroom, and a list o A fine silk custom top-hat is missing from a crooked lawyer who was poisoned by lead alcohol in the Roman theater at the close of the second act, 9:55 pm. Inspector Richard Q, sneezing snuff; a thin, multi-faced, small "Old Man"; and the Inspector's large writer son Ellery, puffing cigarettes, investigate. They start with maps of theater, the victim's bedroom, and a list of names appended with flavorful commentary: the finder of the body is "cranially a brachycephalic", and Dolly "a lady of reputation". The flavor of 1929 costume and culture, with evening attire de rigeur, and hip flasks full of bootleg liquor.


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A fine silk custom top-hat is missing from a crooked lawyer who was poisoned by lead alcohol in the Roman theater at the close of the second act, 9:55 pm. Inspector Richard Q, sneezing snuff; a thin, multi-faced, small "Old Man"; and the Inspector's large writer son Ellery, puffing cigarettes, investigate. They start with maps of theater, the victim's bedroom, and a list o A fine silk custom top-hat is missing from a crooked lawyer who was poisoned by lead alcohol in the Roman theater at the close of the second act, 9:55 pm. Inspector Richard Q, sneezing snuff; a thin, multi-faced, small "Old Man"; and the Inspector's large writer son Ellery, puffing cigarettes, investigate. They start with maps of theater, the victim's bedroom, and a list of names appended with flavorful commentary: the finder of the body is "cranially a brachycephalic", and Dolly "a lady of reputation". The flavor of 1929 costume and culture, with evening attire de rigeur, and hip flasks full of bootleg liquor.

30 review for The Roman Hat Mystery

  1. 4 out of 5

    Luffy

    I enjoyed this book very well. I hadn't read an Ellery Queen book for 15 years and it took me a full month to read this particular beauty. The mystery is engrossing. In the preface the authors whet your appetite by telling you that the criminal has a remarkable mind. That's kind of a tall order to live up to, but this book delivers. At first the criminal could be anyone, but then it turns out that the murderer is someone in the vicinity, not unlike Marple or Poirot stories. The book was pleasing I enjoyed this book very well. I hadn't read an Ellery Queen book for 15 years and it took me a full month to read this particular beauty. The mystery is engrossing. In the preface the authors whet your appetite by telling you that the criminal has a remarkable mind. That's kind of a tall order to live up to, but this book delivers. At first the criminal could be anyone, but then it turns out that the murderer is someone in the vicinity, not unlike Marple or Poirot stories. The book was pleasing but not cozy enough to warrant 5 stars. It doesn't have that type of pull on you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kavita

    A man is found dead in a theatre during a play and the police are called in. Inspector Richard Queen shows up with his son Ellery, and thus begins the story of the first Ellery Queen novel. The plot starkly brings out its setting in the 1920s since the mystery basically hinges around a missing top hat. The victim's hat is missing and no one went out of the theatre with two hats. Where is the missing hat and what is its significance? The plot is well-constructed and hangs together remarkably well A man is found dead in a theatre during a play and the police are called in. Inspector Richard Queen shows up with his son Ellery, and thus begins the story of the first Ellery Queen novel. The plot starkly brings out its setting in the 1920s since the mystery basically hinges around a missing top hat. The victim's hat is missing and no one went out of the theatre with two hats. Where is the missing hat and what is its significance? The plot is well-constructed and hangs together remarkably well. But nevertheless, I was not overly impressed by this first effort of Messrs. Daniel Nathan and Manford Lepofsky. What could have been a great read was rendered mediocre because the authors chose to follow the police action and hide everything of interest from the reader till the last chapter. The narrative hinges around the missing hat to such an extent that it takes up the bulk of the book. Without character development, we don't get a sense of the various characters, not even as seen through the eyes of Queen. The narrative gets stuck in finding the hat and apart from a couple of interactions with the suspects, the dialogues are mostly the Queens and the policemen discussing the case among themselves, which was not sufficient to retain interest. The narrative is also repetitive with the same thing being rehashed over and over again. Ellery was a vague character throughout the book and in the second half, he just disappears. Inspector Queen seems to be suffering some sort of personality disorder since he consistently changes mood, even within the same scene. One moment he is bright and cheerful and the next, he is bawling out at people. He also has a creepy dependency on his son and goes into depression when Ellery so much as goes for a vacation! However, this is the one character who is fully fleshed out in the book. There is some racism in the book as well, but that's to be expected. Still, it hits you rather hard when the black houseboy of Queen is consistently compared to a monkey, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It's rather hard to take even taking the times into account. The motive for the crime is also slightly racist but it appeared realistic and interesting because it fit the period. The book is certainly of historical interest and to mystery lovers, it's the first of an important series of golden age mysteries that defined the genre. So it must always be of interest to some of us. But taken purely as a novel, it does not stand up very well.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Wash your hands.

    My goodness the a lot of people reviewing this know very little about the golden age of detective fiction or indeed, history. Firstly, no chit there is a lot about a hat in it. For that young lady who did not understand why they focused on it so much - everyone wore hats in that era, a missing hat would be as incongruous then as a missing wallet would be to us today. Secondly, educated people in America in the late 1920s spoke and behaved like that, rating a book low because of it speaks volumes My goodness the a lot of people reviewing this know very little about the golden age of detective fiction or indeed, history. Firstly, no chit there is a lot about a hat in it. For that young lady who did not understand why they focused on it so much - everyone wore hats in that era, a missing hat would be as incongruous then as a missing wallet would be to us today. Secondly, educated people in America in the late 1920s spoke and behaved like that, rating a book low because of it speaks volumes. Thirdly, they repeat themselves? Gadzooks, avoid Sayers if that's a complaint. Lastly. Removing the racism from old books is called "white washing" and it's wrong. Racism was the norm back then, especially in the days of segregated America. Removing it from books would be as nuts as Germany removing all references to the war because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. It's clearly the genesis of American detective fiction, in that context it's genius, easy to say it's not as good as the ones which came later, and you can say that of all the greats, but at the time of writing they had very few peers to use as reference. Yes Christie had been published a few years earlier but it was in 1935 when penguin published her books at an affordable price for everyone that she really gained in popularity. Anyway, it reads like a play, I would guess that was the reason it was set in a theatre. Very fast paced with very few wasted words. If this is considered the worst one in the series then I'm very much looking forward to reading the rest.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John

    An unflattering remark about this novel the other day by a crime blogger whose judgments I generally enjoy reminded me I should read the book again: it's been a very long time indeed since last I did so, my copy then being one of those old Victor Gollancz yellow-jackets (borrowed from the St. Bride Library, just off Fleet Street, London, if you need the full particulars). I don't know if it was the very first Ellery Queen novel I read, but it must have been close to it; although my love affair w An unflattering remark about this novel the other day by a crime blogger whose judgments I generally enjoy reminded me I should read the book again: it's been a very long time indeed since last I did so, my copy then being one of those old Victor Gollancz yellow-jackets (borrowed from the St. Bride Library, just off Fleet Street, London, if you need the full particulars). I don't know if it was the very first Ellery Queen novel I read, but it must have been close to it; although my love affair with Queen's work really began some years later, when I came across Calamity Town in a secondhand bookshop in Edinburgh (see? extraneous details -- I gottem!, it was one of these early outings by the cousins that got the ball rolling for me. In the middle of a performance of the latest Broadway sensation, Gunplay!, a man is found murdered in the auditorium, and Inspector Richard Queen of the NYPD is called in to investigate. He brings to the case with him his affected detective-novelist son Ellery, and it's no surprise to learn that between them they crack it -- most of the essential ratiocination being Ellery's, as you'd expect. The dead man proves to have been crooked lawyer Monte Field, and there's no shortage of suspects. Leaving aside his dubious legal career, Field was also a blackmailer, one who believed in sucking his victims drier than dry. The plethora of people with a motive for knocking off the appalling little rat is just one of the problems facing the Queens. The poison that was injected into Field proves to have been tetra ethyl lead, which can be easily extracted from leaded gasoline -- in other words, there's no chance of tracing its source. The only real clue the Queens have is that Field's top hat is missing: apparently, any man going to the theater in the late 1920s who lacked a top hat to accompany his evening dress would have stood out a mile, so there's no possibility Field simply came without one. And how could the murderer have left with two top hats? Ellery and the Inspector reckon that, if they can only work out why the hat was stolen and how it was smuggled out of the theater, they'll be well on the way to solving the murder. Toward the end of the novel there's a Challenge to the Reader, in which we're told we're now in possession of all the information that should enable us to solve the mystery. In fact, as we later learn, we aren't in possession of all the facts: some of them the Queens have been keeping to themselves, via occasional muttered asides to each other to which we've not been privy. This annoyed me less than it might have, since I had a reasonable notion of what had gone down in the Roman Theatre: there's one very obvious way Field's top hat could have been gotten off the premises, and once you realize that a lot else becomes clearer. Earlier on, there's another, similar instance of something pretty obvious being treated as if it were super-mysterious, demanding all Ellery's intellectual powers to crack. (Where did the dead man hide the documents that were the basis for his blackmailing activities? No one thought to look in one of the very first places I would have checked!) This tallies with the way the Inspector, right from the outset, keeps telling us the case is perhaps the most confounding he's ever faced in all his long and distinguished career, yadee yada. To which all one can say is: Pull yourself together, man. Yes, it's something of a puzzler, but it's nothing like as complex as some of the others that you and Ellery will soon be tackling. Part of the solution to the mystery relies on the perception that 1920s America is an endemically racist society. From everything I know, that was then a perfectly legitimate assumption (we still have a long way to go), and there's no sense in which the Queens -- either the characters or the authors -- seem particularly happy with the situation: it was just the way it was, however depressing the attitude might seem to us reading about it ninety years later. But there's a sort of casual racism that's less easy to dismiss in the characters' and the authors' treatment of Djuna, the Queens' manservant. I'm not quite certain of Djuna's ethnicity, but it's clear he is of color. The way he's regarded and described because of this latter characteristic leaves -- although I'm sure the authors thought they were being magnanimously liberal in their approach -- a nasty taste in the mouth. I came away from The Roman Hat Mystery with mixed feelings. Ellery is a bit of a fop, but he's by no means the Philo Vance clone I'd dimly remembered; get rid of the bloody pince-nez and he'd be by and large okay. The book has far too many characters, many of them being rentacops I couldn't tell one from the other (and it didn't matter that I couldn't); Dannay and Lee would soon enough get past this beginners' error. As noted, despite a lot of puffing about how fair-play the mystery is, it isn't, really. The writing's a bit florid, as if someone was determined their expensive education shouldn't go to waste. The treatment's a bit heavy-handed in places . . . On the other hand, I never lost interest and the pages kept turning. So, overall, while this isn't a novel I could get enthusiastic about, I can quite see why I continued to read whatever EQ I came across until, in due course, I hit the really good stuff.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I am not huge on making reviews, but I have to say I believe this book gets a bad rap... so many 2 stars? crazy... I thoroughly enjoyed it! I enjoyed how the book was written, and the crime being solved by deductive reasoning. The step into the past, and the feel for the time period. Even though there wasn't a bunch of "action", my interest was kept. I listened to this book on my audible, and to me it was a wonderful "who-done-it" logic puzzle. I plan on reading the next in the series!

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Monroe

    Wow. Truly a product of its time. Unlike Dashiell Hammett, Sinclair Lewis, Agatha Christie or Rex Stout -- very little of Ellery Queen's (Frederic Dannay and James Yaffe) writing holds up a century later.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia

    Classic detective mystery

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zain

    Redundant I don’t get to give out many one star rating, but The Roman Hat Mystery deserves it. Many pages of the book are redundant, which makes the book much too long.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    I read this book in annotated form as included in Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s edited by Leslie S. Klinger. Thus far in this collection, I've read the first books about Charlie Chan and Philo Vance. Both had issues, from my modern perspective--a painfully slow start and barely any Charlie Chan in the first, and the rambling, annoying presence of Philo Vance in the second. But in this, the first Ellery Queen novel, I finally encountered a 1920s mystery I absolutely loved. The writing I read this book in annotated form as included in Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s edited by Leslie S. Klinger. Thus far in this collection, I've read the first books about Charlie Chan and Philo Vance. Both had issues, from my modern perspective--a painfully slow start and barely any Charlie Chan in the first, and the rambling, annoying presence of Philo Vance in the second. But in this, the first Ellery Queen novel, I finally encountered a 1920s mystery I absolutely loved. The writing is fantastic from page one, the mystery utterly intriguing, and the cast of characters diverse and amusing. I could see myself reading and enjoying more Ellery Queen novels.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    The concept of a police-procedural mystery book that provides the exact clues the featured detectives are going to use to solve the case—in principle attentive readers should be able to come to exactly one, correct conclusion—is fine, grand even, but this books is not the book to carry this idea forward. It is overlong, there are at least a couple big gaps of explanation left out (and without them, you can make guesses but not "know" for sure), has some fairly deep flaws in the police-procedural The concept of a police-procedural mystery book that provides the exact clues the featured detectives are going to use to solve the case—in principle attentive readers should be able to come to exactly one, correct conclusion—is fine, grand even, but this books is not the book to carry this idea forward. It is overlong, there are at least a couple big gaps of explanation left out (and without them, you can make guesses but not "know" for sure), has some fairly deep flaws in the police-procedural aspect, and ends up using over-the-top racism as a final justification of the crime.* Though the two central characters, Ellery Queen and his father Inspector Richard Queen, are kind of fun and there are lots of little lovely bits—the humorously unhelpful list of characters at the start, for example—there are also moments, besides the ending, that just feel hamfisted and pulp without the fun. Since this book has two authors—two cousins wrote Ellery Queen the character under the pen-name Ellery Queen**—I am going to guess that one of them was simply less talented with it than the other, and the less-talented cousin's version of police dialogue is to blame. As for overlong, I cannot be 100% sure since I read the ebook version, but the paperback is clocked at 600+ pages. That's a lot for a book that really, at its core, is in the 200ish page pulp mystery genre type. The fact that 1/10 of the book or so, near-abouts, is dedicated to the explanation of the mystery just makes the whole thing feel like two first time authors were really, really sure they were clever and didn't want to risk winking at the reader so decided to beat the reader over the head with 60+ pages of their own genius. And if this page count is a glitch and it is more like the 200ish pages you would expect, that fact that it reads so tediously that I cannot tell whether or not it was actually 600 pages should say something. Really, though I am glad that I now know more about Ellery Queen (one of those names I have heard for years but never really looked into) the only reason I might read a follow-up novel from them/him is the fact that the others seem shorter, and frankly I want to see if they grow at all as writers. ====== * There are racist and sexist elements throughout, but to what degree you could hold that those are "products of their time", the final racist explanation is so racist, and so divorced from the plot in any way, that it just sits there like a stone and saps modern readers attempts to enjoy the already crumbling house that is this mystery book. ** I also feel like I am missing the joke of two people taking on one character name, but then writing the novel in that character name but the novel isn't really meant to be written by the character. I don't know, man...

  11. 4 out of 5

    David Magnenat

    This first Ellery Queen novel is widely regarded as mediocre at best and significantly worse than many later books. This is the first EQ I've read and had I known beforehand what the general opinion was, i would likely have skipped it and picked up a later mystery. The Roman Hat Mystery is the first of several "national" novels by the cousins writing as Ellery Queen. (The first few novels have a country as part of the title: The Egyptian Cross Mystery, the Dutch Show Mystery, etc.) The Roman of This first Ellery Queen novel is widely regarded as mediocre at best and significantly worse than many later books. This is the first EQ I've read and had I known beforehand what the general opinion was, i would likely have skipped it and picked up a later mystery. The Roman Hat Mystery is the first of several "national" novels by the cousins writing as Ellery Queen. (The first few novels have a country as part of the title: The Egyptian Cross Mystery, the Dutch Show Mystery, etc.) The Roman of the title here is a theater in which a murder occurs during a play. The hat is, well, a hat. And the mystery is, of course, "whodunit." The Cousins Queen (Dannay and Lee) cast Ellery as a rather arrogant fop, a little absent minded, polishing his pince-nez and walking with a stick in a dandyish sort of way. Father Richard Queen, Inspector NYPD, is at once the focus of the piece and the recipient of just the right amount of received wisdom from his son at just the right times. The elder Queen is uneven, seemingly moving from calm and wise to irate and bullying in a flash. This quixotic behavior is annoying to read as it makes for a vague and random character. Another mark of this first novel attempt is the near constant repetition of "here's what we know so far." Father and son review the facts of the case nearly every time they are alone together. While this is to be expected in a fair play mystery, the execution here is clunky and artificial. The mystery itself is intricate but solidly founded in a clear logic chain. I am hoping that as I read later novels the construction will continue to be high quality and the execution and characterizations improve in quality to match. Also in my to-read queue is "Blood Relations: Selected Letters of Ellery Queen" by Joseph Goodrich. Goodrich collected and has published a series of letters the cousins wrote each other while writing the Ellery Queen novels; they famously did not get along -- could barely stand each other,in fact -- and yet managed to produce some of the best American detective stories ever written. It promises to be a fascinating look at the writing process and a lucrative yet difficult relationship between two gifted artists.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mmyoung

    This is one of those books that are so firmly set in the time of their publication that it is difficult to rate them now on their own merits independent of their placement in the development of their genre. Ellery Queen, detective novel writer and son of Inspector Richard Queen, is the co-protagonist at the center of the early Ellery Queen books. The character of Ellery is clearly inspired by S. S. Van Dine's Philo Vance. The prejudices and attitudes of the time of its initial publication (1929) This is one of those books that are so firmly set in the time of their publication that it is difficult to rate them now on their own merits independent of their placement in the development of their genre. Ellery Queen, detective novel writer and son of Inspector Richard Queen, is the co-protagonist at the center of the early Ellery Queen books. The character of Ellery is clearly inspired by S. S. Van Dine's Philo Vance. The prejudices and attitudes of the time of its initial publication (1929) are obvious with incidents of casual gender, class, education and race biases cropping up throughout. The continuous discussion in the book about the difficulty of solving such a mysterious crime hides the fact that answer to "who was the murderer" is fairly obvious and the most important clue would have been found within hours of the murder had the police been even minimally competent. In addition it is hard, when reading this first Ellery Queen novel, to shake off the impressions left by reading Ellery Queens written half a century later and even more, it is almost impossible not to see Jim Hutton in the mind's eye whenever Ellery comes into a room.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elena Rodriguez

    I would not bother with any more of these. While Ellery Queen was a name I'd heard and known for a long time, I'd never read any of their work. This one, published in 1929, has not aged well at all. I don't understand why these authors gained any reputation with this debut novel. It's clunky and hard to follow - and not in the way you want a mystery to mystify you, but in the way a bad plot can mystify you. Much of the action, deduction, and sleuthing take place off to the side, and the reader h I would not bother with any more of these. While Ellery Queen was a name I'd heard and known for a long time, I'd never read any of their work. This one, published in 1929, has not aged well at all. I don't understand why these authors gained any reputation with this debut novel. It's clunky and hard to follow - and not in the way you want a mystery to mystify you, but in the way a bad plot can mystify you. Much of the action, deduction, and sleuthing take place off to the side, and the reader has to wait for Inspector Queen to later explain it in long, dreary monologue. He also seems to have an unhealthy attachment to his son, Ellery. A lot of it doesnt' make sense, and then it's capped off in the end with a surprise bit of racial blackmail, described in a way that's quite racist. I know, what did I expect from 1929. Still...I read books that are much older and much, much better, so I wouldn't have assumed this was going to be so awful based on publication date. It has not aged well.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Read for book club bingo, book by two authors. Oh, Ellery Queen. I started with the introduction, and so I read about how much Manny and Danny, I think the authors colloquially called each other, enjoyed creating plots and puzzles, and how much they loved golden age detective fiction. For that enthusiasm and zeal, I'd like to give this book 4 stars. "A" for effort. But as a novel, it's lacking a lot in... the things that make a story readable. The plot is solid. The clues are precise. The dialog Read for book club bingo, book by two authors. Oh, Ellery Queen. I started with the introduction, and so I read about how much Manny and Danny, I think the authors colloquially called each other, enjoyed creating plots and puzzles, and how much they loved golden age detective fiction. For that enthusiasm and zeal, I'd like to give this book 4 stars. "A" for effort. But as a novel, it's lacking a lot in... the things that make a story readable. The plot is solid. The clues are precise. The dialog is... Plentiful. But there's not enough else. When I start a series, I start at the beginning. In this case, I would have been better served to start with a different piece of the Ellery Queen cannon. So, I will read more Ellery Queen, because he's an important name in mystery and detective fiction, but I will not recommend this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    What fun!!!! This is the first of the Ellery Queen series and is nothing like the ones to follow. This book was written in 1929 and is reflective of the times....prohibition, walking sticks, spats, and racial epithets/beliefs not acceptable to the modern audience. But it must be read in the context of society of that time. Ellery is a somewhat mannered twit but not as bad as his counterpart from that time, Philo Vance. Regardless, this is a good little book with a ridiculously intricate plot tha What fun!!!! This is the first of the Ellery Queen series and is nothing like the ones to follow. This book was written in 1929 and is reflective of the times....prohibition, walking sticks, spats, and racial epithets/beliefs not acceptable to the modern audience. But it must be read in the context of society of that time. Ellery is a somewhat mannered twit but not as bad as his counterpart from that time, Philo Vance. Regardless, this is a good little book with a ridiculously intricate plot that sets the stage for a very successful character who lived on in books, radio, movies and television. The Queen series improved over the years and should be read chronologically to enjoy the changes that take place as the characters find their personalities.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tam May

    I know this is a classic but honesty, it's pure hack work. I couldn't get through it, it was so badly written. I was constantly confused between the son and father Queen, the writing left a lot to be desired, and the constant reference to Father Queen reaching for his snuff box was beyond annoying. If you're looking for something to read when you're exhausted at the end of your day and don't want to tax your brain too much, then this would be a good read but otherwise, there are plenty of myster I know this is a classic but honesty, it's pure hack work. I couldn't get through it, it was so badly written. I was constantly confused between the son and father Queen, the writing left a lot to be desired, and the constant reference to Father Queen reaching for his snuff box was beyond annoying. If you're looking for something to read when you're exhausted at the end of your day and don't want to tax your brain too much, then this would be a good read but otherwise, there are plenty of mystery writers (classic and contemporary) who do a much better job.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    Probably never gonna finish this.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andy Plonka

    The progress of this book is so slow that it was hard to get involved with it. Obviously the solution to the murder lies with the hat belonging to the victim which goes missing as its owner is found dead in a theater, and, though the actual time that it takes to solve the mystery (some 8 days) It feels like the reader has to endure those eight days from so many different viewpoints that tedium wins out.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zain

    No! No! No, l did not like The Roman Hat Mystery. Was very disappointed. Not only because I figured out the guilty party almost immediately. It was just too obvious. But I also didn’t like the book because I thought it was redundant. It could have told a better story with forty less pages.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bicky

    The first of the Ellery Queen books The Roman Hat Mystery is often included in various lists. However I found it to be boring perhaps because I could not grasp the intricacies of a 'top hat'. Anyway, I strongly feel that it is ill-suited for contemporary readers. The other books are much better. Ellery Queen was created by 2 cousins who were very involved in the field of detective fiction and were also very knowledgeable about real life crime as is evident from the epigraphs to their books. As fa The first of the Ellery Queen books The Roman Hat Mystery is often included in various lists. However I found it to be boring perhaps because I could not grasp the intricacies of a 'top hat'. Anyway, I strongly feel that it is ill-suited for contemporary readers. The other books are much better. Ellery Queen was created by 2 cousins who were very involved in the field of detective fiction and were also very knowledgeable about real life crime as is evident from the epigraphs to their books. As far as I know, Queen was the first fictional writer to point out the importance in police investigations of the first 48 hours. Ellery Queen books are famous for the 'challenge to the reader' where the reader is informed that all the clues necessary for solving the murders have been provided. Queen is very scrupulous about this and his books are some of the best examples of trying to match wits with the author. However, they can be dry and the descriptions of the female characters is astonishing even for its times. But clearly, I still enjoy them.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tom Britz

    The Roman Hat Mystery (Ellery Queen #1) is my first Ellery Queen read. Published in 1929 it has a few parts that seem dated, but on the whole it holds up very well. My only exposure to Ellery Queen was a couple movies from the 1930's and they were both on the comedic side, this novel was not comedic at all, but a straight forward mystery. A lawyer of ill repute is found dead in a theater stage play. He has been poisoned and his top hat is missing. This is all the clues that Ellery Queen and his The Roman Hat Mystery (Ellery Queen #1) is my first Ellery Queen read. Published in 1929 it has a few parts that seem dated, but on the whole it holds up very well. My only exposure to Ellery Queen was a couple movies from the 1930's and they were both on the comedic side, this novel was not comedic at all, but a straight forward mystery. A lawyer of ill repute is found dead in a theater stage play. He has been poisoned and his top hat is missing. This is all the clues that Ellery Queen and his father Richard Queen have to solve this case. The story holds up well and the mystery is slowly brought to a satisfactory close by some clever deductions. A good read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    William

    3.5 Stars This is the very first Ellery Queen mystery. Generally speaking, I find early Queen to be far superior to later Queen- the plots are more complex, and the writing focuses entirely on the puzzle without dabbling into unnecessary character development (I'm aware that I just lost some people). But Roman Hat doesn't run quite to par. Essentially, I called it- who, how, and why, and I don't call early Queen very often. There's also a little bit of overindulgence of the meta-conceit of the se 3.5 Stars This is the very first Ellery Queen mystery. Generally speaking, I find early Queen to be far superior to later Queen- the plots are more complex, and the writing focuses entirely on the puzzle without dabbling into unnecessary character development (I'm aware that I just lost some people). But Roman Hat doesn't run quite to par. Essentially, I called it- who, how, and why, and I don't call early Queen very often. There's also a little bit of overindulgence of the meta-conceit of the series (that Queen is both the author and the detective on the scene). It wasn't a bad read, but even the 2nd and 3rd entries in the series are massive improvements over this.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rayrumtum

    This was the first Ellery Queen mystery written in the 1920s. It is not great fiction, but just a good old fashioned who done it. Many of the characters are stereotypes and the writing simple, but it is an enjoyable puzzle. Two things in this 1920s mystery stood out. 1. It was when gentlemen did not go out without some sort of head covering. Today that part of the mystery would not work. 2. It had some of the 1920s attitude about race. For example, I don't know the ethnicity of the manservant /c This was the first Ellery Queen mystery written in the 1920s. It is not great fiction, but just a good old fashioned who done it. Many of the characters are stereotypes and the writing simple, but it is an enjoyable puzzle. Two things in this 1920s mystery stood out. 1. It was when gentlemen did not go out without some sort of head covering. Today that part of the mystery would not work. 2. It had some of the 1920s attitude about race. For example, I don't know the ethnicity of the manservant /cook, Juno Asian or African, but his idolatry of the Queens was rather disturbing.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melli

    Listened to this one on audio, I’m not a fan..! It was a good story but slow and kinda confusing. Maybe if I read this author instead of listen I might feel differently.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Arabella

    i could almost bring myself to like this book until the last 10 pages when you realize just how racist it is

  26. 4 out of 5

    Wayne

    The book I read prior to this one was Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles published in 1920. Christie is the Grand Dame of mystery writing. However, I find her books lacking in the human element. For her, characters are merely the vehicles through which she plots her stories. Even her main characters, like Marple and Poirot, do not rise much above the role of the person who solves the mysteries. Fast forward nine years and we arrive in America in 1929. The book is The Roman Hat Mys The book I read prior to this one was Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles published in 1920. Christie is the Grand Dame of mystery writing. However, I find her books lacking in the human element. For her, characters are merely the vehicles through which she plots her stories. Even her main characters, like Marple and Poirot, do not rise much above the role of the person who solves the mysteries. Fast forward nine years and we arrive in America in 1929. The book is The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery Queen. How different these two books are. I found The Roman Hat Mystery to be atmospheric, an interesting glimpse at lifestyles from another time and the characters - even the peripheral ones - have personalities. The characters are written in such a way that you see them as more than the cardboard figures Christie populates her novels with. The mystery in Queen's book is as convoluted as anything Christie could come up with. But, the cast of characters and the attention to the details of life in the period in which the book is written makes it more than a boring genre read. There is humor, there are social observations and the advancement of the story is enjoyable. My mom read many Ellery Queen books. Having read this one, I now know why. Ellery Queen and his father are interesting characters. I found the writing above what one usually finds in genre fiction. The story was told in a very entertaining way. If you like mysteries, I recommend reading Ellery Queen. The books stand the test of time because they offer realistic glimpses into how life was lived during a time long ago. To say the books are dated is not to recognize that life was not always as conceited and self-important as it has become in today's world.

  27. 5 out of 5

    C.

    I struggled to finish “The Roman Hat Mystery”! Being as tactful as I can, given how much I hated this novel, I am going to allow myself to uncensored frankness explaining why. I was eager to acquaint pioneers of the detective crime branch of the mystery genre. Crime-based adventures and most of all, police crime are my least favourite but still, I thought it would be like loving Chuck Berry, as a legend preceding my decade's favourites. I liked a parent and son team. Richard deferred to Ellery e I struggled to finish “The Roman Hat Mystery”! Being as tactful as I can, given how much I hated this novel, I am going to allow myself to uncensored frankness explaining why. I was eager to acquaint pioneers of the detective crime branch of the mystery genre. Crime-based adventures and most of all, police crime are my least favourite but still, I thought it would be like loving Chuck Berry, as a legend preceding my decade's favourites. I liked a parent and son team. Richard deferred to Ellery even though he was not in law enforcement. It takes a long time to be clear he is an author. It takes 90 pages to end this story's first problem: it was boring! In all that time, we don't leave the first location! When we finally enter their home, with no explanation of why Ellery's Mom isn't there, I thought “Now maybe I can enjoy it”. What do we find? A Turkish boy supposedly taken-in as a second son but grabbed by the neck, called a monkey, taken out of bed because those lazy assholes can't pour themselves breakfast just once, and called

  28. 5 out of 5

    Qube

    Re-reading Ellery Queen after decades! And I enjoying it thoroughly. I find that my perspective has changed over 35-40 years, from the time I first read this novel as a student. The mystery is far less confounding (even though I had completely forgotten the plot and the solution), but it isn't fair to judge pioneering authors with decades and decades of hindsight. I also find myself taking exception to snuff taking even if the character is one of the two protagonists. I don't remember finding it d Re-reading Ellery Queen after decades! And I enjoying it thoroughly. I find that my perspective has changed over 35-40 years, from the time I first read this novel as a student. The mystery is far less confounding (even though I had completely forgotten the plot and the solution), but it isn't fair to judge pioneering authors with decades and decades of hindsight. I also find myself taking exception to snuff taking even if the character is one of the two protagonists. I don't remember finding it disgusting as I do now. The writing style, which was appropriate for the age it was written in, feels stilted now and a little tiresome. The exaggerated casualness of dialogue seems affected. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely, and plan to read the next few till I get bored of it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    John Frankham

    A 2019 re-read confirms the view below. The first, 1929, Ellery Queen whodunnit, jointly authored as a competition entry. Interesting set-up, with New York Inspector Richard Queen, abetted by his non-cop son Ellery, in investigating the theatre murder of a crooked lawyer. Almost like a couple of private investigators with detectives to do the hard yards. But where has the man's top hat gone ...? Rather uneven. 4* is a little generous. An interesting solution to the hat mystery, and a splendid denou A 2019 re-read confirms the view below. The first, 1929, Ellery Queen whodunnit, jointly authored as a competition entry. Interesting set-up, with New York Inspector Richard Queen, abetted by his non-cop son Ellery, in investigating the theatre murder of a crooked lawyer. Almost like a couple of private investigators with detectives to do the hard yards. But where has the man's top hat gone ...? Rather uneven. 4* is a little generous. An interesting solution to the hat mystery, and a splendid denouement that rather emphasises the plodding and repetitative nature of the Queens' investigations. I read that the subsequent novels were superior, so will certainly read some more

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    The very first Ellery Queen mystery and well done. I kind of like the "breaking of the fourth wall" where the reader is informed that they now have all of the clues and should be able to solve the mystery. Richard Queen seems more prominent than his son, Ellery, but he gives Ellery credit for solving the case. Interesting puzzle.

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