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Crime & Beyond met this month to discuss The Greek Coffin Mystery by Ellery Queen. We went with a classic mystery this month, this book was originally published in 1932. I think Lorraine said it best when she said that she didn’t love it, but she’s glad she read it.

Denise gave us some background on the authors. Yes, that’s plural. Ellery Queen was a pen name taken by a two man writing team. The writers behind the books were two cousins from Brooklyn, New York. Daniel Nathan, professionally known as Frederic Dannay and Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky, professionally known as Manfred Bennington Lee.

The character Ellery Queen is an amateur detective who helps his father, Richard Queen, a New York City police officer, solve crimes. In The Greek Coffin Mystery, Ellery helps the police locate a missing will after the death of a Greek Art Gallery owner. When he insists the will has been hidden in the dead man’s coffin, they dig up the coffin and re-open it. The will isn’t there, but they discover that the Greek is not alone. There’s another body in the coffin with him. So now there’s a missing will and a dead body.

Through a long and drawn out investigation, Ellery gathers clues, tests hypotheses and basically analyzes the evidence to death. We were specifically taken through an analysis of several tea cups, some stale water and three used tea bags. Then there was the thing with the ties (red versus green) and whether or not the Greek was still blind. Don’t even get me started on the typewriters and the two paintings.

It won’t come as a surprise to know that many of us thought that the book had way too much detail, was too dense, and could have been shortened by about 100 pages. The book, as stated above, was published in 1932, so a lot of the content stood out to us in 2015. There were attitudes toward women, foreigners, people of diminished mental capacity, and just about everyone else in the book. Amy proclaimed that Ellery was a Pompous Ass, others called him a Jackass, and I think I may have heard Smart Ass, Horse’s Ass, and Dumb Ass too. But Janine put it best when she called him a “pedantic sod.”

Many of us were fooled by the Red Herring of Miss Brett, we thought she might be the murderer. No one guessed that it was Pepper, and many of us didn’t really care.

A little fun fact about the book is that each of the chapters had a title. When you looked at all of the titles lined up in the table of contents, the first letter of each is an acrostic that spells out “The Greek Coffin Mystery by Ellery Queen.”

We chose our first 9 books of 2016. You should have received a separate email with the titles, and they are also in Book Movement (and soon to be on the library site).

Our next meeting will be the Christmas Party at my house on Thursday, December 17th. You’ve gotten another email with all the details. If you missed it, please let me know and I will resend it to you. We will be discussing A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh.

Happy Thanksgiving, see you in December.

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