After an outing to the Hamlet on the banks of the Hudson River, the cousins returned home to Ellery Queen.  Home had changed, though, with a higher body count, more complex characters, and more scenery.  Ellery Queen the detective is shot, and, it turns out, he bleeds.

Home is no longer a secluded, exclusive resort.  While the characters still reek of affluence, there is room to stretch and walk around the city. Neighboring houses are entered, as well as a tavern, a vault and police headquarters.

The logic does tend to get messy, though.  To wit: speaking of statements made by someone now found murdered, Ellery asserts, “For while a suspect his testimony was open to suspicion, as an innocent man he must perforce be believed.”  What a crock.  I would argue that just because someone is later murdered, that does not make all of his pre death statements truths.  Someone predestined to be murdered can also be a liar.  This statement was made while Ellery insists he is being perfectly logical: “Let me show you how logic and the exercise of the brain provide an interesting deduction.”  And, two pages following, “Logic, not necromancy, Sampson, although it is true I am anticipating future events by a sort of consultation with the dead . . . ”

But we forget: this is not really home, it is a retreat, a dalliance from reality, an escape from the height of the Great Depression, presenting readers with a world they would never know, of art dealers and family crypts in urban backyards.

By now the cousins were easing into the idea of writing more and more Ellery Queen novels, and were changing the unlikable character to someone they could socialize with better. They had stayed at this cabin in the woods before, purchased (or stolen) from Philo Vance, and now they were ready to redesign the place, they were ready to take out that wall, paint the living room, ventilate the underground burial chamber, renovate and update their characters, they were ready to relaxing into Ellery Queen.


4 thoughts on “The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932)

  1. What do you think of the solution? I am rereading after finishing the book two nights ago. There are a few loose ends. This has to be the longest of the novels. At least the Ellery novels.

  2. ===Spoiler Alert===

    I just finished this book. Very entertaining…but preposterous. No murderer would (or could by himself) move a concealed body from a trunk in the basement in an abandoned house (where it could decompose and not be identifiable) outside, dig up a coffin in the middle of Manhattan, put the body inside the coffin, and rebury the coffin. And that’s only the start of the problems with the plot. However, I did enjoy reading the book.

    • Spoilers….

      Keith,I completely agree. You were probably thinking that the cousins were going to come up with a more logical explanation for why the body was moved. Two other things that do not work are the facts that he eliminated one fellow because he mentioned he gave the blackmailer money. The other thing is the fact that the one character is from Scotland Yard yet this is never mentioned in any of the messages they send to the British Police. But like you I was still compelled to read the story. Is this the best plot of the early novels? Not sure about that.

  3. A brilliant mystery novel of its time and type. It also contains a neat portrait of the young and somewhat callow Ellery — a young man not long out of college and trying to show off how smart he is, and who learns the hard way that he’d better be careful with his logical conclusions.

    And one of the great thunderbolt solutions in mystery fiction to boot.

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