Penny Book Review: The Greek Coffin Mystery

greek coffin mysteryI am back from my conference! A summary: it was fun, I hate meeting people, the friends of my friend are my friends. Cheers to getting to D.C. for next year’s AWP! (I’m hoping to find a spot on a panel, or perhaps moderate one of my own…we’ll see.)

Anyway, that’s not what you’re here for. What you’re here for is my lil review of Ellery Queen’s The Greek Coffin Mystery, the next up in my quest to read all of the Penguin Dropcaps books before I turn 30 in November.

First off, the companion drink: what you need is a cup of black tea, bag-brewed, with a squeeze of lemon in it. This is important, as the beverage is one of the many clues and red herrings in this formidable book.

I say formidable, because I’m not actually sure whether the tea is a clue or a red herring, or a bit of both. Look, I’m not good at mysteries, okay? I tried to read John LeCarre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, hoping it would confuse me less than the movie, and it was a disaster.

That said, the book–I mean The Greek Coffin Mystery, not Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy–really is an engaging read. Little Queen runs around collecting clues and accusing people and finding bodies and acting smug. Fun times!

I did have a few beefs with the book, though. First of all, and this is just a dumb technicality, Ellery Queen is not actually the author. It’s a pseudonym for two cousins, Nathan Daniel and Benjamin Lepofsky, who wrote the Ellery Queen series (yes, there are more). Penguin Dropcaps, are there really that few authors with last names starting with Q? Esteemed VCFA faculty member and my own second-semester advisor Mary Quattlebaum? No?

Secondly, can we just talk about the awful sexism and mentalism? It’s same same as what I’ve complained about in the past, of course–the book was written in 1932, when people were totally okay with referring to a person with mental disabilities as “[staring] his vacant idiot’s stare” and with addressing a female secretary in entirely unprofessional terms. Really? Thank goodness we’ve managed to move past those days.

Anyway, I give it a 3.5 in my book. It’s a fun read for sure, especially if you like mysteries. And that is all I really have to say.

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