Harry Potter, a middle-aged building superintendent living with his portly wife in Manhattan, moonlighting in a Long Island chemical factory, would have gotten away murder, if not for the pesky pet store clerk and her new friend, Ellery Queen. Yes, that’s right, Ellery Queen meets the famous wizard in a short story which could be called “Harry Potter and the Seven Black Cats.”
Of course, J.K. Rowling’s popular character has nothing to do with this story, other than the fun coincidence of each having a character named Harry Potter. The contemporary popular culture icon this story has more to do with is the main character of the television show “The Big Bang Theory,” played by Jim Parsons. For some reason, Parson’s voice and tone filled my head while reading this story. Like the previous story, this one is heavy on the dialogue, and Parson’s cerebral and socially awkward character somehow comes to mind here. Re-reading earlier passages, I find the same does not hold true. Try it though. It’s kind of like reading the poems of Emily Dickinson to the tune of The Theme to Gilligan’s Island. In all, it shows a shift of Ellery Queen’s character from stiff-upper lip intellectual to a unselfconsciously mocked intellectual.
Not surprisingly, the victims name, Euphemia Tarkle, which Ellery refers to as “Is she as improbable as her name?,” has yet to grace the pages of any other literature.
There is a story here. The pet store clerk has noticed that a woman with a professed dislike for cats has been buying a cat a week, but not this week. Ellery Queen happens to pop into the store to buy a pup, she recognizes his name, and together they decide to snoop. Ellery explains, “Miss Curleigh, I’m an incurable meddler in the affairs of others. How would you like to help me meddle in the affairs of the mysterious Tarkle sisters?”
Because, apparently, that’s what they do, they investigate the lives of random strangers with other strangers. What better way to bond with a new acquaintance?
Of course, without that chutzpah and nosiness, there would be no story. Without Marie Curleigh’s explaining the situation to a total stranger, and then that stranger inviting her on an adventure to search an apartment, without any of that extremely extroverted behavior, there would be no call to adventure, no embracing of life, no story to tell.
Incidentally, Ellery walked away dogless. Will a dog appear in future tales?
My problem with this one is that the plot hinges on Euphemia, a true cat lover, being unable to tell one black cat from another. Cats have individual personalities, as any cat lover knows.