Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee’s two early sleuths appeared in separate stories in a magazine the cousins published in October 1933. Barnaby Ross’ detective, Drury Lane, appeared in the complete novel, Drury Lane’s Last Case, and Ellery Queen’s eponymous character appeared in the short story, The Adventure of the Glass-Domed Clock. The short story was nondescript, Drury Lane died, and the magazine lasted only four issues. This was certainly not the apex of their careers.
The story begins with the authors mocking Ellery Queen, an interesting foray into humor which, briefly, works. The mocking addresses Ellery’s habit of assuming anyone can reveal neer-do-wells just as he does. “On the surface, the thing seems too utterly fantastic, a maniac’s howling nightmare. Anybody with Ellery’s cherished ‘common sense’ would have said so.”
After this brief introduction, the actual story starts: “It began, as murders do, with a corpse.” (This is true from the point of view of the detective. For everyone else involved, the murder began years ago. But, I digress.) What follows is refreshing irrelevance, a breezy romp through the standard investigation procedure. Coroner Dr. Prouty does not just show up grumpily on the scene, he physically abuses the corpse: “[he] rose from his examination of the body and prodded Martin Orr’s dead buttocks – the curio dealer was lying face down – with his foot.”
The stuffy locked room has been opened, fresh air sweeps in.
The body, so brusquely kicked in the butt by the coroner, it is discovered, had survived long enough after the murderous attack to purposely find a way to indict the killer – the dying clue takes center stage!
Also, this story is also set solidly in March 1926, making it the first date specific Ellery Queen mystery. The date had to be included, so the most extreme nonlinear thinkers could perhaps grasp a bit of where the mystery was going.
Unfortunately, the story goes nowhere interesting. Instead, it becomes buried under the weight of way too many two-dimensional suspects, and drags on to the point where only Ellery is still awake at the end of his delineating monologue.
Here is the problem with this story. It is one of the very few mysteries they wrote that violates fair play. They say early on that it was a dying message clue by the victim when in fact it is not. The first page misleads you into believing it was. Also Ellery is being very arrogant in this story. I took that has him insulting the cops for not being able to figure out the solution.