Ellery Queen (Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee)
All the early Ellery Queen books--those with titles following the The Nationality Object Mystery--are much of a muchness. The clues are placed fairly. The deductions are clever, if occasionally wafer-thin. The characterization is perfunctory. The dialogue is dated. And the detective, Ellery Queen himself, is insufferable.
Yes, insufferable. Dannay and Lee, as the intro to this volume points out, were imitating Philo Vance, whom Raymond Chandler called "the most asinine character in detective fiction". (Or, as Ogden Nash put it, "Philo Vance/Needs a kick in the pance.") Ellery Queen is less a character than a collection of mannerisms. What character he does have consists mainly of supercilious mannerisms and pretentious allusions.
Having said that, The Dutch Shoe Mystery is a workable puzzle. If you can stomach Ellery Queen (by regarding him as a plot device, is the way I did it), it's a decent enough read for those who like this sort of thing.
In justice, I should point out that:
- Ellery Queen the character got a lot better over time.
- "Ellery Queen" the authors were true giants of the 20th-century mystery scene; nobody in the U.S. did more for the genre.