Thursday, August 30, 2012

"The Double" common denominator in "The Twin Siamese Mystery" by Ellery Queen

An alternative analysis of the novel 
(Spoiler..but not too much)

 In 1933, two Queen wrote the novel “The Siamese Twin Mystery”, which prevailed in their production for several reasons, as one of the best novels ever of their first creative period.
Its plot is complex: Ellery and his father, returning from a vacation in Canada, are trapped by fire in a forest on one side of Arrow Mountain. Their only hope is to climb to the summit of the mountain. On the top there is the home of Dr. John Xavier, a prominent surgeon, and his strange family. But inside the house, Ellery known an atmosphere of suspicion: several rings were stolen from inside the house during the previous week; an unknown woman is hiding upstairs, and there is a monstrous creature that runs at night. The next morning Dr. Xavier is found dead from a gunshot in his office in front of him a card solitaire and torn half of a six of spades in his hand. The murder is followed by that of his brother, found holding a jack of diamonds in his hand. The climax is reached when the fire reaches the house and all take refuge in the cellar, and here takes place the last phase of the drama, with the discovery of murderer by Ellery, and the solution of the story.
As you can see, there's enough meat to put on the fire, though honestly, it should be recognized that the novel, despite being one of the best novels of the first creative period, however is less intricate and mastermind of “The Greek Coffin Mystery”, which instead is recognized by many and also from the same Nevins, such as the  the investigating novel more complicated, more and better built and breaking brain that has been published in the United States during the Golden Age of detective novel.
First let's see how Arrow Head, the house on top of a mountain surrounded by the glowing fire, prefigures a case of enlarged Locked Room. It is like an island surrounded by sea, from which the murderer can not escape, as "Ten Little Indians "by Agatha Christie or even more relevant, like the murder in a house outside of which there is a cyclone and then from which you can not go out, in “Murder at 28.10” by Newton Gayle (1938).
The novel stands as one of the best examples of that queenian characteristic, who is the “Dying message”, appeared for the first time at the third murder of “The Tragedy of X”: the victim before exhaling last breath, seeks to direct  with a specific message, those who can interpret it properly: in this example is a card of playing:  before the six of spades, then the jack of diamonds, cut in half. We will see what other meaning can have the rest of the reasoning, but simply limit ourselves here to report it. I point out one thing that I jumped to mind:  reading this novel at the time it was written, anyone, without having the proof, however, would have assumed (beyond what they had read the introduction to The Roman Hat Mystery) a link between Ellery Queen and Barnaby Ross: in fact, if you can clearly see, the first time at which Ellery Queen introduced Dying Message, was in Tragedy of X. In The Siamese Twin Mystery indeed an X  die two X: therefore, good reason, this is a Tragedy of X!
However, this astonishing novel is marked by a series of deductions and imaginative variations about the theme of false confession; and for other two characteristics: first, inherent to the story told, is the lack those policemen and sergeant Velie, which usually appear in early novels; the second, more important, is the lack ofChallenge to the Reader”. In fact this is the first novel at which it is missing, or rather to be more precise, which would seem to be missing: in fact, in the cellar, while outside the fire raging in the house and threatens their very lives, Ellery says to those present and asks: “..Before I tell my little tale, isn’t there some one here who, like Smith, has a confession to make?
Stefano Benvenuti and Gianni Rizzoni, authors many years ago in Italy, of a celebrated work by Mondadori, "Il Romanzo Giallo", affirmed that in reality, although there was no indication of a "Challenge to the Reader", it was disguised: as the 'invitation to the guilty would not make sense because the guilty would certainly not come forward, they concluded the invitation could it’s addressed to the reader.
Critics have debated various ways on the importance of this novel, not because of its structure, but what underlies its realization. In fact this is the first novel in which many signals scattered in the plot, refer to a malaise louder, a real hardship, which was established between the two cousins​​. They in fact, though united by their history and their common Jewish origin, although they together created the best sellers, little by little they realized they have entered into a game that went beyond their personal sphere (which would include also texts for radio, movie scripts, and the creation of 'EQMM, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, where they were collected the best short stories, tales, the international crime scene). They did not put up with more, and often ended up arguing, sometimes quite dramatic, as when, while in a radio studio, a broadcast was interrupted because of screams could be heard coming from another room where they were "discussing" the two cousins​​: it ended, the two cousins​​, went to live far from each other.
 Manfred Lee was in charge of writing the novel and style, while Frederick was in charge of invention of staged narrative and plot. In practice, themodus agendi” of the couple was able to deduce when a few years ago, Crippen & Landru has published the last couple of unpublished novel, “Tragedy of Errors”, a cloth along a seventy pages written by Dannay and then, after Lee's death, remained in a drawer until after the death of Dannay, has been rediscovered: "Danny" imagined the plot  and put it in written form while “Manny” thought to roll out the novel in final form. Well .. the mind and the arm!
Remi Schulz, a great scholar of riddles, French, and a leading expert on the Kabbalah, has written some interesting articles, examining some aspects of the Queen: he brings forward the thesis that we do not feel at all to share in that he tends tries to bring water to his mill, but some of his views are really interesting, especially as the hidden meaning in the texts. It is the characteristic of the Kabbalah, the doctrine that two Jews as the two cousins ​​had to know if you do not share: “Le mystère du frère siamois (et non des) est le septième roman des Queen, effectivement paru fin 33, l’un des plus réussis de cette première période fort prisée par Borges qui s’est déclaré peiné de la bifurcation des Queen hors du sentier de la pure déduction (Remi Schulz, Quain ’tween Queen & Twain). Remi Schulz quotes a famous story of Juan Antonio Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths (El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan, 1941). Borges, who was present with a few short stories in EQMM,  referres to the fact that at some point in the way that the two cousins ​​had traveled together, had arrested, giving rise to a fork in the path of pure deduction (
In practice, Schulz according to Borges, says writing the story he would metaphorically refer to the two Queen. This seems to us an interpretation taken by the hair: Schulz essentially measures the similarity of Herbert Quain, writer invented and protagonist of another story, Examination of the work of Herbert Quain, with Ellery Queen, which for him is strong indicator, because Borges was hosted EQMM and the story he cites is that of crime. The fact is that the common interpretation of The Garden of Forking Paths, is based on taking into consideration the time not in an absolute sense but relative, "a growing network of divergent, convergent and parallel .. they put, you fork, cut or ignore for centuries includes all possibilities” "(JLBorges: Fictions).
Metaphysical interpretation, we might say.. It must be said that The Garden of Forking Paths is the 1941, at which time the two had probably already gained the will to be divided (although only appeared in EQMM in August 1948, was a translator Anthony Boucher). And if Schulz thinks about Queen as the inspirer of Quain is because, but he does not say, something is inextricably linked to this hypothetical novel by author invented, Ellery Queen. The narrator says: “..The God of the Labyrinth; puedo agregar que el editor la propuso a la venta en los últimos días de noviembre de 1933. En los primeros de diciembre, las agradables y arduas involuciones del Siamese Twin Mystery atacaron a Londres y a Nueva York” ((J.L.Borges: Ficciones, Examen de la obra de Herbert Quain).
 Consider another very significant step in his study: “..Le mystère du jumeau siamois, du Siamese twin, est peut-être une première manifestation de ce malaise entre les cousins. Alors que tous les premiers Queen sont parus avec la reine de carreau (Queen of diamonds) en couverture, Dannay a convoqué ici une dame Carreau d’origine française mère de jumeaux xiphopages ; un chirurgien spécialisé envisage de les séparer, il est assassiné ; un des jumeaux est soupçonné à cause d’un valet de carreau coupé en deux (une double figure tête-bêche dans un jeu américain), ce qui pose le délicat problème du châtiment..” (Remi Schulz,  Les Queen maudits 4)
In fact what Remi Schulz says may have real substance: at the first editions of novels by Queen, before "The Case of the Siamese twins" there’s in fact a Queen of Diamonds on cover, which would represent the company logo as the two cousins​​, why really a Queen of Diamonds and not of spades or hearts or flowers? Schulz says that there's a Madame Carreau and mother of Siamese twin metaphorically represents a woman of diamonds, mother of Siamese twins (a name, Ellery Queen, which hides the union of two persons, who are united by force having two minds and two different bodies, and that would detach: the two cousins​​); there is a skilled surgeon in separations of Siamese twins that dies assassinated (essentially at the moment when the two cousins ​​could be divided, intervened something to lay down their indivisibility). The Siamese brother is suspected on basis of a Jack of Diamonds divided into two (a playing card that has mirrored the Jack in the two halves of the card): still a representation of the meeting of two persons in one. Keep silent about the rest: the left hand open and the closed right, reasoning that it was not left handed, and then on the voluntariness of the act, especially as the rigor mortis would begin immediately after death, due to the fact that he was diabetic but this feature is also present in other novels, The Egyptian Cross Mystery, and in The Tragedy of X , written prior to this novel.
But why the first two Queen would choose a Queen of Diamonds instead of that of other grain? The seed of the diamonds in our opinion is peculiar in the four and has a feature that others do not: inverted, is always a square, that is, there is not a verse: the spades are reversed, hearts and flowers as much, but the diamonds are not overturned, you can not see if the are, are the representation of unity, perfection of the seeds. But the deeper reason for the choice, is given by the family history shared by 2 cousins, individually connected to a playing card. If we go back to the origin of games of cards, we find that the capital itself, the place where for the first time the French cards were used and from where they spread elsewhere in the neighboring countries, was, from the sixteenth century, the city of Rouen: there, in particular, to cards with subjects (with the infantry, the queens and kings) were given names. Originally the names of the four queens were:  Queen of Spades = Pallas (Pallas Athena), Queen of Hearts = Rachel (Rachel, wife of Isaac), Queen of Diamonds = Argine (anagram of Regina), Queen of Clubs = Judith (Judith ).
However, when playing cards were adequately spread to France, the terminology of Rouen was joined by that of Paris, which had some differences: so, the names of the four queen become:  Queen of Spades, Pallas; Queen of Hearts, Judith; Queen of Diamonds, Rachel; Queen of Flowers, Argine.
We fix our attention on Rachel = Queen of Diamonds: The mothers of two cousins, sisters Rebecca and daughters of immigrants were Russian Jews, Leopold and Rachel Wallerstein: Rachel .. here is the link! Moreover Remi Schulz also mentions it: "The grand-mère commune Dannay et aux cousins ​​if prénommait Rachel Lee, the nom de la reine de Carreau français dans les jeux". Remi Schulz about the novel in question stops here, but we .. we go forward.
We note at this point that if Rachel, Queen of Diamonds in the French playing cards, was also the name of his maternal grandmother of 2 cousins​​, and if we have one in the novel Madame Carreau  and Carreau (which in French means the seed of diamonds) is the mother of conjoined twins Francis and Julian, means that we can rightly associate Francis and Julian to Dannay and Lee. The same card, the Jack of Diamonds (double in the mirror of the two jacks) may, by virtue of the association Carreau = Diamonds = Queen, representing not only one of two Siamese twins, but also one of the two cousins ​​Queen. Moreover, even individually, the playing card torn in two can mean a union.. ripped: dividing a unit into two.
But someone has ever asked why the surgeon was called Xavier? Where the Queen would have try the inspiration and why they chose this name just to represent the surgeon's task in the novel to separate Siamese twins?
I note first that the novel is the 1933: a few years a great musician of Spanish origin, who had set up his own band, specializing in the accompanying music and especially tango, short films and feature films, he started playing in New York , and since 1931 had become the main attraction of the season at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, one of the largest and best known in New York: Xavier Cugat. It 'possible that the great Spanish-Cuban arranger and musician, has provided the inspiration for the character of the novel? To me, it might be possible but then you should see why this name and not another had struck them: in my opinion, the origin of the name choice, there was the letter: the X. Why?
We have already noted that this novel is akin in spirit to The Tragedy of X, then X may be chosen to link the two novels. However, the X, in our case, it may represent the "two-faced" of the 2 cousins​​, their "double": in fact the X, the Greek letter CHI, represents the chiasm, which has a cross shape: the elements are arranged opposite each other.
The one in the comparison of the other, so that what is in the lower left is reflected in what is in the upper right, and so on. Moreover, the correspondence to chiasmus as a pair of opposed, it is akin to that of the two mirror images according to a symmetrical axis, directed towards each other or both of which look at the two opposite directions, a two-faced which recalls the God Janus (the more we note that if we
stylize the representation of the god Janus, we obtain a X. Then who knows how to think about it, I noticed how Jianus is very similar to John, John Xavier: Ellery Queen in all that seems dictated by coincidence, not is, and read between the lines is not an exercise far-fetched, but is connected with the Jewish beliefs of the two cousins​​. between the two was more than that paid to these puzzles was obviously Dannay, especially as he was to lay the foundations of script and the plot: he was to hear more of this need to move on his cousin?
 And Mark, the brother of John? He too is a name chosen on purpose? Remi Schulz, still in his essay, note the singularity of the fact that Twain is very close as a form of speech in Twins (Siamese). Coincidence?
“..Dannay a écrit seul un roman, publié en 53 sous son vrai nom de naissance Daniel Nathan, The golden summer, basé sur des souvenirs d’enfance… Si The golden summer est bien plus qu’un doublon de Tom Sawyer, son titre semble calqué sur celui du premier roman de Twain, The gilded age (L’Age doré)”. Dannay in 1953 wrote a novel that spoke of his childhood, The Golden Summer, a novel very similar in texture to Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, whose title was too similar to the first novel by Mark Twain: The Gilded Age.
For Danny, so attentive to hidden meanings, the surname was very significant: Remi Schulz said, I would say what is meaningful, like Twain is very similar to Twin. Not only. If there was not the  letter “a”, Mark Tw(a)in  would become Mark (of) Twin. Twin who draws our novel, but also the two Queen. In addition, both subjects, the brother of John Xavier, Xavier Mark and Mark Twain have the same name: another attempt by Dannay  to connect himsel and the cousinf to their people, another metaphor?
If you really want, the theme of the double is very insistent in the production of two cousins
​​from this point: name “Mark”, not only appears in this novel, but also elsewhere: for example there is a radio play called "The Adventure of the Mark of Cain ". The Mark of Cain, that is the mark of the murder of Abel, individually in its title refers to two names that strongly characterize the queenian production: Mark, which is part of a dual (John-Mark) and Cain, who is part of a another double (Cain-Abel Bendigo Bendigo) in "The King is Dead", which features two other brothers. Among other things, to highlight the importance of these meanings in the continuum of queenian work, it must be remembered that even a chapter of "Once Was a Woman", is called "The Mark of Cain".
But what’s The Mark of Cain? A “X”. The Mark of Cain, a X. The chiasmus, the shape of Janus. The twins addressed. It 's all put in relation to the story of Danny and Manny.
The two cousins
​​were always arguing and came to the conclusion that it was better to stay away. But surely they were not convinced the same way: there was one of two who wanted to separate and other didn't want it at same manner. I suspect that he was Danny, that Nathaniel did not want the separation, and his cousin, Lee, that was better economically and had literary ambitions  wanted to separate. The Mark of Cain, then it may refer not only to the twins (the cousins), but also to other two subjects: Cain and Abel. Here then, Cain (Bendigo) and (Abel Bendigo) ...
And “X” what is?
X is the letter Taw. The Taw is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the twenty-second: still 2, even a double .. 2, 22. And the numerical value (because the Hebrew letters have also numerological value) is 400, who is a multiple of 2. Not only: 22 is the numerical value of Taw, and 400 is tightly close to its value numeral 22. In fact 2 +2 = 4 +0 +0 . A multiple of 2.
 Furthermore, since Taw is the last letter, ending of the word "death", in Hebrew "Maveth", it assumes its significance. The 2 Xavier are killed, so they are dead. Formerly had the meaning of "Seal of judgment":  in this case, is the mark of Cain. Because who had brought it, by God's will, even if cursed, no one should kill him.
But over time, the letter Taw became the means by which the righteous were recognized (for example in Ezekiel). It then lost its negative meaning. As was the final letter, he also had the meaning of the Greek letter Omega: late but perfection. And as Omega was opposed to Alpha, as the Taw was opposed to “Aleph”, the letter whose number was 1, the symbol of unity. So even a number that is opposed toone”.
Mark, Xavier, two brothers, related both to the letter T: Mark (of Cain)=X; Xavier, begins with X
 But Xavier who also reminds us of? We remember also the leader of the X-men, the telepath, Professor Charles Xavier. Stan Lee may have looked at Ellery Queen? We note curiously, as not only Xavier recurs in the saga of X-Men (X once again), but also its double: his half brother, the evil first and then redeemed "Phenomenon", which coincidentally is called Mark Cain. Strange, is not it? Moreover we can also say that the two Xavier (John and Charles) are very similar, such as John Xavier is concerned with the separation of Siamese twins, united brothers monstrously due to a dysfunction gene, Charles Xavier takes care of humans born mutants because of a particular gene: the gene X. And should we look for even more nitpicking, we might say that the 2 Siamese twins are no more than the mutants. So ..
In the sea of
​​the interesting things about this novel, I jumped to mind another thing I want to point out at the right hand of John Xavier was found a fragment of "Six of Spades."
Why clutching a fragment instead of a full playing card is already a thing that made me think and then it is not covered: an assumption that for me  would be spontaneous is that John Xavier had snatched the playing card and had shaken the fragment in his hand so as not to see within the holding something unusual that might have been a card, however, she, although crumpled, still would not have been visible, and he, a doctor, and  diabetic, would have to assume his immediate rigor mortis.
However there is another curious thing: in the novel there is a drawing of a six of spades split into two fragments: the first, in that tight fist is not wrinkled and represents two whole seeds and bits of two others, the other, the crumpled, two whole seeds and roots visible other half divided by two. Now, in the Tarot, the six of spades is a warning for a mistake that could be done but that does not last very long (the mistake of having first identified the culprit, then having wrongly acquitted him and finally having nailed him again?). But if we examine the two fragments, we are faced with a fragment that is worth two of spades and one that is worth four, and now the two of spades is a division (love or friendship), the four, a difficult decision that you are for taking: the difficult decision to separate the two Queen? However, in the first chapter of Part Two, "The six of spades," says Richard Queen, John Xavier used a playing card with which he was playing solitaire (the murderer when he was shot two bullets in the stomach: yet the symbolism of the two , almost as if when someone wants to intervene to separate the union of two, they themselves do not want to be separated): The six (of Spades) is between the seven of diamonds and the five of diamonds, remembers the Inspector Richard Queen.
In Tarot, the five of diamonds means “atmosphere of friendship or business friendly”, while the seven of diamonds means “to make a decision on something that has not previously taken into account”. It seems clear reference to having to make a difficult decision of a division that has not ever wanted to take into consideration and that will lead to an atmosphere of friendship or friendly working: Once separated, the two cousins ​​worked on writing many more novels , dividing the tasks and avoiding nevertheless to be together. Arbitrary interpretation? And is just a coincidence that the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans was Madame Laveau, and Laveau as final ending sounds like Carreau, Queen of Diamonds?

But we must remember, the piece of card of playing John Xavier held tight in his fist is the one with only two seeds of spades: so .. division. The second piece of card of playing had been crumpled up and thrown away, what means "decision difficult it is to take"; in other words, the last word for the division (of the two cousins​​?) had already been taken. And the decision was held by the right hand while his left hand has nothing in his hand: that is, even assuming one could say that the right hand wanted the division, the left hand didn’t not. Right hand, left hand, which belong to the same person: other representation for two different entities (Dannay and Lee) that are part of a whole (the company town Ellery Queen)? This would lead us to the final question for the moment, in the absence of evidence of a biographical nature, remains unanswered: which of the two cousins ​​wanted the separation, and who didn’t want it ? We know that Dannay was pretty introvert and had trouble in the family while the other was his cousin. But you could imagine everything and its opposite, in the absence of objective biographical data.
Finally there is the meaning of something else, I turned in all its importance at the end of the book: the Six of Spades to know how to interpret well, could also be a way to identify the murderer. In fact, oddly, Ellery Queen stops to the value of the card of playing, the SIX, and to acrostic it indicates. In fact, Dr. Xavier before he die accuse SIX of having murdered. He stops and goes no further than this. Strange. Very strange. And I suppose that Dannay originally had thought Ellery to disclose to the other, but then he didn’t. What? Why SIX of spades and not diamonds or flowers or hearts? The shape? The meaning of Spades = Death? To me there's more. It has connected with the French terminology, already used in the Carreau = Diamonds. In French, SPADES is said PIQUE. Now, what is the strange disease which has affected the murderer, and you will see that underlies the whole novel? Kleptomania. In other words, there is someone who steals during the novel objects: rings, but also of insignificant value. And what animal is commonly designated as a thief? The Magpie, which is commonly appealed Thieving: Thieving Magpie. And what is the scientific name of Magpie? PICA PICA. PIQUE-PICA: interesting, right? But also more interesting is that term “PIQUER” in French can mean “TO STEAL”. So, accusing the card of spades, you wanted to accuse someone who had stolen.One thing that certainly also Dannay besides me must have thought at the time, because the reference is not random but it seems too direct. And why do not recalls Ellery Queen at the end? Perhaps for not repeating the fact that he was distracted by other things during your adventure? Ellery often end up doing the wise guy in his early novels, which tend to argue and quibble too much, to take the crabs and then eventually be forced to turn back: it does not happen only here but elsewhere. Or may be it's the sign of a previous draft  not used at all? I do not know.                                                                                                                                                                          Pietro De Palma                                                                                                                                     

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Paul Halter: A 139 Pas de la Mort, 1994

"Reader Beware: SPOILERS"

Roland Lacourbe, years ago, talking, labeled  A 139 pas de la mort  by Paul Halter as one of the minor works of the Alsatian writer. I, while recognizing the indisputable authority of  Lacourbe, take a different view: for me, this is one of the best work, a true masterpiece.
On what basis do these statements?
The novel is a true anthology of bizarre situations, strange. The story is developed on the basis of a plot which seem outlandish and gruesome, most can not. In many novels Halter, are macabre scenes, probably a legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. And, in our case, the "macabre" abounds.
But Halter is also a mannerist. Besides, it could not be so: after Carr (and Rawson) the rest of the novelists who followed in their footsteps, ended invariably to repeat their inventions, only presenting them differently. But even if Mannerist Halter has the major advantage is a novelist born with an overflowing imagination and delusional.
He can merge two situations, which at first sight are absolutely unrelated, in a plot which, while not being able to make people forget Carr (it's still a Mannerist) at least impresses the imagination that brings into play.
In one night, Neville Richardson, private detective, comes across a beautiful girl who is scared of someone or something. Decides to follow the pick and soon after talking to a guy. From a distance, can not be identified except for one thing that makes him shudder: a voice and a hoarse and shrill laughter. Boarded the girl, and posing like that guy (collar up and trying not to see the face), is able to know that something should happen on April 16. And this is related to a move that has seen him do, in the dialogue between the individual and the girl, a fist with the thumb up. And then the cryptic phrase: "On the 16th, at 21, above the door at the bottom of the bird." What do you mean never?
The action moves elsewhere. Such Paxton reveals Inspector Hurst and criminologist and detective in his spare time Alan Twist, that such a hired him to do something completely meaningless: wearing clothes and shoes, made
​​available to him (and only those: he can not wear others, for example their own), have to walk all day to deliver the mail, from one place to another, always the same: to deliver an envelope, and deliver the clothes, and then the next day pick up from there another envelope and bring it to his employer, re-wearing the same clothes: always and only two envelopes, always the same clothes .. But the great thing is - and is anticipated to own Twist in the revelation - that there is nothing inside the envelopes.
What does this strange occupation, with what is narrated above? The fact that the mysterious businessman who hired him for something seemingly meaningless, has a voice hoarse and shrill.
Because of the jewels are stolen, someone thinks of a traffic precious concealed in the heel of the shoes that invariably wear out, since the courier involuntary moves always in the same places.
Meanwhile, the scene shifts to a small village half an hour away from London lives here an ex-cop with his niece. While he is looking for her, finds an abandoned house and laying in ruins, first belonged to an old eccentric, a Fiddymont. It is said that an aura of mystery hovering over the house.
On April 16, arrives and meanwhile you have not figured out yet what that mysterious gesture with his hand. Or rather, you arrive late, in that day: "The Bird in Hand" is the name of a pub near the Covenant Garden. In the attic of the building where the restaurant is found, a man is found slain: he is the messenger which has been talked about before: Paxton.
Why was he killed?
Meanwhile, someone alert the police, the man with the squeaky voice, that "someone" was seen wandering near the home of the deceased Fiddimont. Here is what connects the two parts: the man with the squeaky voice. A coincidence? Twist and Hurst do not believe. And go to this abandoned house, whose front door is locked from the inside. Got into the house, it is a nightmare scenario: in a room, closed to the outside on a chair placed between the window and the fireplace, found the corpse of the old Fiddimont, still dirty from the ground, five years old . How did he end up there, if there are footprints on the floor covered with dust? And how is it that the house was locked from the inside in turn, as if the old Fiddymont had risen from the grave and there he had gone? A bit of time before, someone had talked about noises and voices from the tomb of old, and the earth itself had appeared moved. Obviously, recovered the coffin, buried deep in the earth in short, it will be empty. The thing is that, inside the house, no matter what has occurred, it witnessed countless witnesses: dozens of pairs of shoes, of all shapes, sizes, colors, male and female, aligned to each other a side by side, on the ground, covered with dust. And the dust inside the house reigns supreme, even as it is on the floor.
What does Fiddymont link to mysterious individual with shrill voice?
It has its own importance in the story of the disappearance of a piece of eaves of the house?
The fact is that very soon, a new murder occurs: Professor Lynch is killed, married to Emma Lynch, heir of the old Fiddymont. He is found in another abandoned house, this time near Covenat Garden: but how many abandoned houses! And next to the corpse, always old shoes.
It's up to nail a Twist evil murderess, not before they killed the old cop Winslow, a friend of Twist and Hurst, who participated with their investigations, and who lives in the village. Why?
The novel is a portentous "divertissement".
It is full of red herrings (starting with the first murder, another red herring is that of shoes. But then why the old Fiddymont wanted them to stay in his house, that amount? There’s also, the red herring of the desecration of the grave of the old , the unearthing of his body, and his ostentatious house in a hermetically sealed from the inside), false clues (the high-pitched voice), real clues (the adulterous relationships that four people have woven together, and the piece of gutter disappeared).
The novel is full of false suspects and perpetrators of covert, manipulators and manipulated: theft are important, but not a reason or a motive nor murderers. Halter in this, it seems to me that you mention "The Siamese Twins Mystery" by Ellery Queen, but reversing the situation. Those who know the novel by Ellery Queen, knows what I am talking about when I talk about theft. There, the murderer is the thief, not here. But the motive of the murder is the same masked. And just as there, even here the murderer tries to blame those who had nothing to do. A series of coincidences that seem to me very little chance to not be remembered.
Halter's novel is full of quotations from the novels of other great mystery writers, as often happens in his case: intentional and known quotations (He Would Not Kill Patience by Carter Dickson / John Dickson Carr), but also scrolls and unmanifested ( The Siamese Twins Mystery by Ellery Queen). Another quote is The Adventure of the Red-Headed League from "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Conan Doyle (refers to Paxton, taken for a purpose unknown to him, which in this case is also connected to his assassination).
Here I emphasize, one of the common features in the novels of Halter: the fact that often in his novels victims are at the center of machinations, but also that the same killers end up being the victims of events that occur without their knowledge (an another example is in "La lettre qui tue"). In our case, the killer who had premeditated the perfect crime is discovered only because a third person, outside the circle of people in which the killer operates, having suspected that a person is in danger, he causes the police operation.
How? Just read the book!
Finally, in addition to the double impossibility (door locked from the inside, with corpse dug up and seated on a chair, without any footprints on the floor covered uniformly by powder), the interesting thing of this novel is a "Locked-Room Lecture" , inserted in Chapter 42 (which enriches the novel, and differentiates it from others he has written), which stands as a Halter tribute to Carr and Rawson, both cited two examples: the second, those strips of gummed paper draws From Another World  by Clayton Rawson).
But the shoes? What about them? It will be the final, a final jaw-dropping, which has the flavor of a melancholy tale, to explain its significance. Especially in light of the attitudes "of madness" attributed to the old Fiddymont, that he was not mad but instead of that childhood nostalgia that had not.

Pietro De Palma

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Edogawa Ranpo: the Japanese Master. Injû, 1928

Edogawa Ranpo

Edogawa Ranpo: Inju, 1928. 
La belva nell'ombra ( Beasts in the Shadows).

Edogawa Ranpo is a name unknown to most. Died in 1965, was considered at the time, "by the two cousins ​​Queen", one of the greatest authors in the world of crime, especially short stories. Edogawa Ranpo has also become a legend for his novels: one of his masterpieces is Inju.
Edogawa Ranpo is a genius. He processes the European tradition of detective novels  inserting in it a typical Japanese frame and adapting it to the society of his country. He inherits especially Edgar Allan Poe: in fact, born as Hirai Taro, he changes at some point his name in Edogawa Ranpo (Name + Surname, read in Japanese,  are very close in pronunciation to Edgar Allan Poe). But then he reevaluates the whole European tradition, from Conan Doyle to Agatha Christie, creating works in which the abyss of destruction is total, and in which there are psychological disorders together to horrendous crimes, and all in a crescendo of anguish, all personnel.
Inju talks about a writer of detective novels, who because of his susceptibility to analysis and deduction, is dragged into a vortex from which he will not lift up (maybe).
 It all begins when Samukawa, writer of detective novels, in a museum in which there are various statues of Buddha, sees a beautiful woman, stopping at the window he is looking. Soon they begin to talk about this and that. He learns that she call Oyamada Shizuko, and that is the wife of Rokuro Oyamada, a businessman, administrator of the Rokuroku company, much older than her. He watches her that moves gracefully in her kimono, and in his heart begins to try something for her, and decides to find out why on her back there are signs of whippings, of which one can see the extreme layers at the nape and neck. In the days that followed, he learns that her friend is haunted by his old love, another writer of detective stories, who Samukawa knows hearsay: Shundei Oe. This man did not forgive Shizuko for  abandoning him, and although she had managed to disappear without a trace, however,he  managed to find her and he wrote to her the letters in which he announced the intention of killing her husband Oyamada Rokuro and then herself.
Samukawa feels compelled to do something for her sudden and he begins to investigate as a detective. He begins to attend, to go her home. At the same time he decided to investigate about Shundei: decides to use Honda, the editor of a magazine that published works Shundei and asks about notices and if the letters that Shizuko caused him to read could have been penned in fact by Shundei, since Honda knows how he writes: Honda responds that the writing is by him and undeniably also how he uses verbal expressions and adjectives, it is belonging to him.
Honda says he has seen Shundei: is a fat man who one day he saw wearing clown suit into a park, while distributing Shundei’s advertising materials. In reality what is known about him is little: we know that is fat and who lives isolated, hermetically sealed in a house, and for a time was married.
One day, while Samukawa is at Shizuko home, she suddenly beckons him to shut up, and then they receive a strange ticking,  a clock you can not find: the ticking, they find, comes from the ceiling of the house, where you see a crack. Shizuko tells it to him and then she talks him that a few days before she saw the fierce eyes staring at her: it’s possible that Shundei was able to introduce him into the ceiling of the house without did she and her husband discovered him?
The fact is that it explains why in the letters that continue to arrive to Shizuko, Shundei can knowing many aspects of her inner life: perhaps he also saw the sadomasochistic rituals of Shizuko with her husband, who, in moments of passion, he lashes back with a whip he bought abroad.
Samukawa decides to penetrate into the ceiling and he understands well how Shundei could have done without the knowledge of the two spouses. He scours the ceiling of the house, finding it unusually clean .. and then he finds a button. Since that button is there? The women who clean the ceiling say that when they cleaned the last time, that button was not there. The button will be the clue that will lead Samukawa to an amazing series of observations, deductions and counterclaims to the end of the novel.
Shizuko tells him a few days after she saw Shundei watching her through the window, as "a beast in the shadows." This perception is a prologue to the crime of Oyamada. A day he after his arrival at home, after having stayed with his wife, he decides to visit a friend of his. He, left the house, will not return home: he will be found the next day under a barge sailing in the river in a horrible way: a woman who went into the toilet, a squat toilet, he sees a face appearing from the water through the hole of the toilet. The body will be removed from under the boat: he is Oyamada, naked or nearly so, with a deep wound that pierced the lung and caused his death and with a weird wig.
All are now looking Oe Shundei but don’t find him: he seems to be vanished, even from his home. The strange thing is that at the moment in which Oyamada dies also Shundei’s letters cease.
 “Oyamada was killed by Shundei? And why at his death do anonymous letters cease? Could Shundei and Oyamada being the same person?”, asks the reader more and more passionate. Or could Oyamada for some perverse desired to have played Shundei to terrorize his wife? Or did Shundei and Shizuko together put on this story in order to kill Oyamada? Or else ..?
So many questions that Samukawa develops, and what he turns out, it makes him sure that it is the truth.
Extraordinary crime novel, all played on the psychology of the characters, know how to put on in place of the crime and come to his own achievements through the labyrinthine pathways of the brain, played on the alternation of right and wrong, of shadows that run, on truth who he does not know if they are these or they are only cleverly used lies. But it is also an erotic novel, morbid, with traits of perversion that make it unique, and very timely. But very, very refined.
Seems like a novel by some time ago. Then we read the date and we remain bewildered: 1928.
When Ellery Queen had not yet written his first masterpiece, Edogawa Ranpo already wrote something completely delusional, and .. mind you, very european. Because the solution (but is it the real solution?)  seems trivial, as it is brainly the best of premeditation.
The fact is that Samukawa, when he will destroy his previous resolution for another even more convoluted, drawn on the basis of the famous button, and even the wig, he will be not even sure to have guessed the right one, because he will always remain in doubt , the first solution was right.
A novel that can not miss in the library of a crime fiction lover.

Pietro De Palma