Ellery Queen – The Madman Theory (1966)


Vintage Silver Age Mystery
Just the Facts Category: When — During a trip/vacation/cruise, etc.
TBR #8
Cloak and Dagger Challenge #8
Official TBR Pile Challenge #1
Date Finished: January 21, 2018

On a hiking trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the lead hiker among a bunch of businessmen is shot and killed by a shotgun blast. The other hikers are behind him and thus incapable of being the murderers. Was it a madman stalking people on the trail and killing for no reason. A lone, mysterious hiker had been seen behind them. Or does someone else have a motive? How could they have had the opportunity, though? Inspector Omar Collins and Sergeant Easley of the sheriff’s office investigate.

Written by Jack Vance under the Ellery Queen house name, this turns out to be a police procedural novel, showing their dogged footwork in investigating the various suspects, mainly by tracking various cars that were logged into the park at the time of the murder. The murder method turns out to be a rather complicated scheme and arrangement that would be too tricky to actually work. Perhaps this method of murder was thrown in to justify the Queen name on the book, but it doesn’t match the realistic nature of the rest of the book. The work turns out to be a pleasant enough read, but nothing above average.

My copy is the second half of a double volume with A Fine and Private Place. That being the last of the true Ellery Queens, I finished it in December 1984 and have had this second half waiting ever since. Even as a teen, pre-internet, I knew these other titles were not quite right and far below the standards of the early Queens. As part of the Official TBR Pile Challenge, though, I’m finally going to get them off the shelf. Funny how you can get done in a day something you’ve been putting off for 33 years.

Just the Facts Silver Card 2018-01-21

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