[Ellery Queen makes a new friend on a flight from London to New York on New Year’s Eve]
By the time they set down in Gander they were on a first-name basis and arguing amiably… They almost forgot to mark the passage of the old year, which took place between heaven and earth after the flight resumed. They landed at Kennedy International Airport early New Year’s morning in a fog only slightly less gothic than the one that had grounded them in Gander.
‘There’s no point in your groping about for a hotel room at this hour,’ Ellery said. ‘Come on home with me, Harry.’…
Their cab drove uptown through Times Square, which looked like a ghost town invaded by tumbleweed…
[At his apartment there is an urgent message to call a young woman, who wants to see Queen]
She sounded like a pretty girl. So he sighed and said, ‘Do you know the address?’
Roberta West proved even prettier than she sounded… She was dainty of body and fair of skin, with true sorrel hair and luminous eyes that were underscored with late hours or trouble. She was dressed in a skirt and sweater-blouse of some angora-like material, with a Parisian-looking coat flung over shoulders and a scarf wound round her neck that might have been designed by Picasso.
commentary: The Tuesday Night Bloggers did Ellery Queen in the month of November – click on labels below - but I saved this one because of the New Year’s Eve setting.
Though to be honest there isn’t anything very much seasonal about it apart from that description above, and the important investigation into the death of singer Glory Guild trails on into the year, culminating, for a very odd reason, at the beginning of Holy Week, ie the week before Easter.
There is a dying message – a spectacularly unlikely one using a most unconvincing method I would say – some young couples and romances, and some good clothes: Capri slacks, an astonishing turban, a woman dancing in a nightclub wearing a large hat. In several of his books Queen has a moment like that above, where he specifies that a woman was wearing a jacket or coat over her shoulder, perhaps buttoned in place. So shoulder-robing, as it is now called, is nothing new.
We are several times told that Roberta, above, has sorrel-coloured hair, but I don’t have much clue as to what that colour is. I like the emphasis on true sorrel, as if there were fake sorrel dye everywhere.
There’s an of-its-time moment when a doctor is mentioned, and it is a surprise that she turns out to be a woman.
There is a lot of emphasis on women’s breasts – ‘busty and blond’, ‘an astonishing bust’.
I guessed the solution to this one (my thinking might be summed up as What Would Agatha Do? – anyone familiar with her oeuvre will ask certain questions). But that didn’t stop me enjoying the book, with its mad puzzles and very dramatic ending at a wedding.
One of my EQ posts in November dealt with The Last Woman inHis Life, which starts at the exact second that this book ends.
The picture above shows Picasso in an excellent scarf. The other pics are a fashion ad of the 60s, and a lovely scarf that Picasso might have designed.
Happy New Year….