Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Eve: Face to Face by Ellery Queen


published 1967




[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…

19 comments:

  1. Ah, yes, the dying message. I've seen that, Moira, in several of the Queen novels, including The Last Woman in His Life. Interesting it's used in two sequential books like that. And, if I may say so, I've never been a big fan of the way the 'Queen team' drew female characters (all that tuck of busty-ness reminded me of that). Still, the Queen novels present some great whodunits, and it sounds as though this was an enjoyable one.

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    1. Yes, Margot, I think we have the same reservations, but the same willingness to get some enjoyment from the books - they were very clever and well-written.

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  2. One of my favourite among the later Queen books - glad you enjoyed it. Have a great 2016, Moira.

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    1. Same to you Sergio - and yes, the book certainly kept me entertained.

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  3. Oh I like the notion of a Picasso scarf. Alas I don't like the notion of Ellery Queen...I've only ever read one but it was one too many...not my cup of tea at all. I do like it when authors carry on a series from exactly the same moment though...it means the characters I like haven't been having fun without me :)

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    1. What a great way of putting it Bernadette. I have come back to EQ after a long absence, and am starting to see the attraction...

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  4. I have a number of 1950's needlework magazines; for several years kits that included yarn for a sweater and a length of goods dyed to match for a skirt were often advertised.

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    1. I have never heard of that, but love the idea - I always like items that match or tone but in different materials.

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  5. Sounds like an interesting book. I read a lot of Ellery Queen at some point in my life years ago. Apparently library books because I have exactly one in the house now. Thus I am interested in books by Queen I might like, because I know that they are not all equal.

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    1. I felt just like you - I found I had read quite a few according to my records but kept almost none of them. Happy to read my way through them now, slowly.

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  6. No guesses as to sorrel? I had a quick Google and sorrel is a horse colour - a rather lovely deep coppery colour, not quite dull brown, not quite blazing red.

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    1. Oh I was thinking of the herb sorrel! And a foodstuff called sorrel soup, not how you want your hair to look. I still don't think it's a common idea....

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    2. And, Daniel, a friend in Italy has just told me 'Sorrel is a beautifully coloured wild plant. We have some in the field and it's nice to suck the stem. Sweetish.' But what colour, I said, and she replied 'Burnished reddy brown seed/flower tops. Green stems.' Like the horses?

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    3. Sounds like it - there's a couple of sorrel horses on this page:

      http://www.cowboyway.com/HowTo/HorseColors02.htm#Sorrel

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    4. V helpful pics! As it turns out, the model above isn't far off...

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  7. Not tempted to be honest. I'll stick with the two-fer you kindly sent me!

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    1. And just one of those if I may make a recommendation! It's not as if you don't have enough books already to read....

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  8. I'm glad for that sorrel clarification above, as I kept thinking 'green'! Quite a look... ;-) Happy New Year!

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    1. Exactly, I know. I'd be interested to know if it is a standard colour to many people... Happy New Year to you too!

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