7 /10

The Chinese Orange Mystery

by Ellery Queen

Snappy Review

Not necessarily an impossible crime, but certainly improbable. It’s my first foray into Ellery and I was certainly … bemused! Loved the fact that I had all the information and still couldn’t work it out!

Book Synopsis

A topsy-turvy crime scene sends a detective on a puzzling quest for the truth

The offices of foreign literature publisher and renowned stamp collector Donald Kirk are often host to strange activities, but the most recent occurrence is unlike any that have come before. Some time after an unknown caller is sent into the anteroom to wait for the return of Mr. Kirk, he is discovered dead on the floor. Nobody, it seems, entered or exited the room, and yet the crime scene clearly has been manipulated: everything in the room–including the furniture, the picture frames, and even the man’s clothing–has been turned backwards and upside down. Stuck through the back of the corpse’s shirt are two long spears and a tangerine is missing from the fruit bowl. Enter master detective Ellery Queen who, coincidentally, was invited for a banquet at the offices, arriving just in time to witness the discovery of the body. In this complex crime, no detail or clue is too minor or too glaring to be considered carefully, and it will require all of Queen’s deductive skills to uncover the culprit.

Reprinted for the first time in over thirty years, The Chinese Orange Mystery is an early Ellery Queen novel revered to this day for its challenging conceit and inventive solution. That being said, the book is a “fair-play” mystery in which readers have all the clues needed to solve the crime themselves. In 1981, the novel was selected as one of the top ten locked room mysteries of all time by a panel of mystery-world luminaries that included Julian Symons, Edward D. Hoch, Howard Haycraft, and Otto Penzler.