The cousins, Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay, hit a career low with their short story “The Adventure of the Three Lame Men,” originally published in Mystery, April, 1934. While the skeleton of the mystery is somewhat clever, the repeated ethnic slurs detract from the story enough to pretty much ruin it.
One can argue that the cousins were simply products of their time, or they were writing for a low-brow audience, but I reject both arguments. The second argument greatly insults the intelligence of lovers of low brow fiction. The first argument dismisses everything else written in 1934 which was not filled with ethnic ignorance.
There are many examples of fiction published in 1934 without the same issues as Queen’s stories, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Nine Tailors, James Hilton’s Goodbye Mr. Chips, and so on.
The other problem, more fundamental to this story, is the theme of dysfunctional gender relationships. A mistress blackmails her lover, threatening to expose their relationship to the lover’s wife. The wife knows all about this, and other, extra-marital relationships, so, on one level, the threat of blackmail is an impotent threat. However, the man involved can not stand not being in control, and so kills the mistress. In this fictional world, apparently, the only way to respond to a woman exercising power over a man is murder, and this is not questioned by the characters. This theme picks up again in the much better read, published a month later, “The Adventure of the Hanging Acrobat.”
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