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The Penthouse Mystery: 07/20/08
My grandmother turned me onto the Ellery Queen mysteries when I was a kid. Ellery Queen, the author, was actually join pseudonym of two cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, who collaborated on the books. Two years ago I received a bunch of Ellery Queen mysteries as library rescues and I have been enjoying them this year during my son's swim lessons.
The first book I finished is The Penthouse Mystery which started actually as a film and was novelized and sold as a "junior mystery." Ellery's secretary cons him into working on the mystery of a missing ventriloquist famous for his act in China. He has come back to New York on business but never makes it out of his penthouse.
Some of these Ellery Queen mysteries hinge on now outdated cultural norms. The Penthouse Mystery holds up fairly well and any attentive reader will be able to figure out the twist behind the mystery.
Many of the Ellery Queen mysteries are written as "Encyclopedia Brown for grownups" as my husband describes them. They will often stop at the point where all the clues have been laid and then Ellery (who is a character as well as an "author") will address the reader directly to ask if he has solved the mystery before going through the final summary chapters. The Penthouse Mystery, perhaps because it was a film first, doesn't break the fourth wall. For that reason alone, it's a better than average Ellery Queen.
Copies of the book can be readily found online for a few bucks. The film, though, doesn't seem available.