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The American Gun Mystery

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Member Reviews

A wild west show is playing in New York when one of the performers is shot dead.  Who did it?
Penxler Publishers and Net Galley let me read this book for review (thank you).  It has been published and you can get a copy now.

They all had guns but they were filled with blanks.  Someone had a small pistol they used to kill him.  It had to have done by someone at the show so 20,000 people had to stay to be interviewed.  All guns were confiscated but no gun matched the bullet.

There is a large hunt carried out but still no luck at finding the gun.

As questions are asked, Ellery thinks he knows what happned, but how to prove it?

It's well done mystery about the missing gun and the killer.  The killer was unexpected.  It took good brainwork to find the killer.
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Having previously read and enjoyed an Ellery Queen book, I was looking forward to this one very much.  Unfortunately I was disappointed - by the story, by the characters, by the antiquated (and at times extremely problematic) language.  I understand this was to be a throw-back to the classic days of the Queen mysteries, but in this day and age it's just tone deaf.

The story had some interesting spots, but not enough to forgive the egregious language.
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A Seemingly Impossible Crime…
 A seemingly impossible crime is investigated by Ellery Queen. An enjoyable re-issue, in keeping with others in this series, with an intriguing mystery at its’ heart but with a convoluted and detailed solution and motive. Perhaps not the absolute best in the series but entertaining nonetheless.
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“The American Gun Mystery” is another of the early Ellery Queen books (1930s), where Ellery is a bit of a pompous annoying know-it-all (a la Philo Vance, a popular series lead at the time).

The premise, as always, was an interesting puzzle:  a rodeo comes to New York City, which is a perfect opportunity for a washed-up Hollywood cowboy to perform a star turn and resurrect his career.  During opening night however, he is shot dead and trampled by 40 (41!) horses in front of thousands of spectators – including homicide inspector Queen and his crime-solving son Ellery.  But even when everyone is searched, even when the whole arena is turned upside-down, even when the newsreels are reviewed, the American gun of the title that did the deed is never found.

So off we go with Ellery Queen to solve the mystery.  We have the police in the guise of Inspector Queen and his veteran Sergeant Velie, plodding along and following their routines.  We have a colorful cast of characters, from the victim’s daughter, to the show owner and his lover boy son, to the arena owner always looking for a buck, to a mysterious stranger only known by the victim, to the wily old cowboy who was arguing with the victim, and many others.  It is only after a second murder that Ellery is able to solve the crime.

This one started out interesting but lost steam.  I still have a hard time with the smugness of Ellery:  keeping things hidden, planting and hiding evidence, manipulating the police, always keeping himself above the common everyday people.  I also didn’t understand the purpose of a secondary story thread about a Hollywood actress and her affair with a boxer – unnecessary and a bit racist.  And the denouement (see?  A fancy Ellery word!) was a bit of a disappointment.  A nice read for true Ellery fans, but otherwise not the best.

I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Penzler Publishers, American Mystery Classics via NetGalley. Thank you!
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The American Gun Mystery by Ellery Queen
First off, I have to confess that I cheated and listened to the audiobook version which may have made it more entertaining due to the skill of the narrator, Dan Butler. So I enjoyed this story but did not read it myself and that may have made a difference in my experience.
A warning: this book is totally non PC with racist and anti-feminist references and attitudes. Remember it was written in 1933 and enjoy it if you can. If not, reader pass by.
To me, this was a unique story of a rodeo murder mystery set in NYC. As usual, EQ  shows his erudition with many quotations in various languages that I do not speak which is bit annoying. Otherwise, it was good old-fashioned fun.
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Oh Ellery! What a great reissue from Penzler Publishers! I absolutely adore a great locked-room mystery; a murder in front of 20,000 spectators was smashing! I didn't guess the culprit, but the fair-play clues were all there.  Some of them I missed, but I was almost these. 

Very dated, but still an enjoyable read.
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I generally like reading books published under the Ellery Queen name, this is one of the earlier ones,  well written but a little slow to read. and not as easy to follow as the later book.
A Murder is achieved at a rodeo, with hundred of people in attendance and no clues, or even the gun can be discovered.. Ellery  is mysterious throughout the book, and dribbles out clues slowly, the solution , whilst very clever, is predictable, and  the ending leave a bit to be desired.
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The American Gun Mystery is an early Ellery Queen mystery originally published in 1933. It has been out-of-print for over thirty years until now.

I’m a fan of Queen and have read four of the earliest novels with pleasure. This is my first time reading this book. I was disappointed in three ways. First, the prose and Ellery’s posturing was even more pretentious than usual. Second, the plot was convoluted but not in a good way. Part of the problem was that it didn’t seem fair that Ellery kept some major plot points to himself until right before the reveal. Is this book truly solvable by an armchair detective? Not as likely as it was in the earlier books in this series. Finally, the blatant racism is rather disturbing when reading it in a new century. It does make you appreciate how times have changed for the better—though much work still needs to be done.

Due to the problems enumerated above, The American Gun Mystery will probably appeal only to Ellery Queen’s fans. I can see now why it was out-of-print for so long. However, completists will enjoy reading it. 3 stars.

Thanks to Penzler Publishers, American Mystery Classics and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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It's been a long time since last I read an Ellery Queen mystery and this was the first one I read in English.
I don't remember I've ever read it before and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The puzzle is really complex and I was fascinated by the investigation and how the clues were placed together.
It's entertaining and I think it aged quite well even and it's a depiction of an era.
My only note is that the language is sometimes a bit hard to understand as the author uses a sort of phonetic transcription.
An enjoyable and intellectually challenging mystery, 
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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This novel dates back to the golden age of crime fiction and would be enjoyed by anyone interested in that genre.  Having previously read several Ellery Queen short stories, I found this full length story tougher going largely due to the rather dated and over-written American dialogue.  As in every Ellery Queen novel, the authors set out the clues and challenge the reader to come up with correct the solution, after which, the answer is revealed and explained.  For readers who like crime novels where the author doesn't 'cheat' this is the perfect formula.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and W. W. Norton & Company for an advance copy of The American Gun Mystery, the sixth novel to feature New York detective Ellery Queen, originally published in 1933.

When Buck Horne, former silent movie star turned rodeo star, is shot in front of 20,000 spectators nobody sees anything and, more importantly, Ellery Queen and his father, Inspector Richard Queen cannot find either the weapon or the perpetrator.

It is more than 40 years since I last read Ellery Queen, so when the opportunity arose I was interested to revisit the series, as it is not something I have felt compelled to do in the meantime. Having read The American Gun Mystery this lack of compulsion stands.

I actually quite enjoyed it as the mystery is engrossing and I imagine the format was quite novel at the time, but the solution is so convoluted that I defy any reader to guess it and the motive so lame it’s barely credible. In this latter I may be bringing my 21st century sensibilities to bear, but even then it seems out of character. The authors make a big deal out of the “fair play” scenario in that the reader has all the clues and should be able to work it out. Well, not this reader who happily followed all the misdirection and didn’t get a single guess right. I think that they play slightly fast and loose with their “fair play” claim. Still it was fun trying to work it out as the authors have a lively style of writing and a playful approach to teasing the reader.

It should be noted that this novel is a product of its times so the principal characters are white and relatively affluent. Ellery Queen is the forerunner of an East Coast elite with a smart mind and a penchant for literary quotations in various languages. Annoying? Not half. Comprehensible? Occasionally. Still, he is appealing, with a touch of vulnerability and uncertainty. The rest of the characters are fairly stereotypical but come to life in the lively narrative style.

The American Gun Mystery is an interesting read.
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A delightfully intriguing fair play mystery from Ellery Queen, reissued by Penzler.

I’ll begin by saying how much I love the Penzler editions of Golden Age mystery/crime novels. The introductory material (which I often skip in classics/reissues) is always exceptional in the Penzler editions. 

And the mystery itself is well worth returning to print. Queen always nails the puzzle aspect of a mystery, weaving a complex set of clues and circumstances together into a gorgeous tapestry of information. Are you going to solve the mystery before the detective does? Probably not, but the point of a fair play mystery is that you’ve been given enough information that you could, and Queen does this better than almost any other.

I was skeptical about this one because of the rodeo setting (decidedly not in any way an interest of mine). Though this does mean the atmosphere was a lesser animal for me than Queen mysteries that take place in my more preferred settings like crumbling old mansions or campuses, the story and the characters are intriguing enough that I didn’t mind all the rodeo business nearly as much as I thought I would.

Eagerly awaiting more Penzler reissues of Queen’s work.
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Over the past year I have extended my reading from British Golden Age Detective Fiction into American novels of that period.

I have now read a few by the writing duo known as Ellery Queen and am reluctantly reaching the conclusion that they, along with the works of van Dine, are just not to my taste. 

This early example was, to me, prolix and preposterous and not an enjoyable experience for a reader- detective. I  appreciate neither the style nor the plotting. 

Thank you to NetGalley and to WW  Norton & Company for the digital review copy.
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I think everyone who considers themselves a fan of mystery novels should read at least one by Ellery Queen. If you've already tried yours and didn't like it, you probably will not like this one either. I keep going back, about once every ten years, to try to find what I'm missing. These stories were very popular in their day with fans who were every bit as devoted as I am to my favorite authors and series. So what was such a draw that people looked forward to the latest publication? After all this time, I honestly still don't know.

Once again, not a favorite book and I almost got tired of my own mental criticism of it. There is just so much there to criticize. But....I have never read another mystery novel that was so audacious as to present a "locked arena" setting. Attempting to keep the entire audience of a rodeo performance in their seats until the police could search and interview them, twenty thousand people, simply shows the conceit of this team of authors. I'll tell you what, though, I never guessed who committed the crime. Ellery Queen gives a complete breakdown of the clues which the reader is supposed to pick up (along with Ellery) as the story progresses so reader and detective reach the same conclusion at the same time. Phooey! You can only come to the same conclusions if you think only along the same lines as Ellery did. No, still not a fan of the Ellery Queen mysteries but the twist at the end was deserving of three stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penzler Publishers for an e-galley of this novel.
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I am so glad to see this reissued mystery classics.
Ellery Queen books should be in any true mystery fans collection!
I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.
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This is the first Ellery Queen book I’ve read. He was an author I was aware of, perhaps mostly because of the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine which published short stories by many of the great American crime writers, but who I didn’t know much about. In fact I didn’t even know that Queen was a pseudonym used by two cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee. Ellery Queen is, intriguingly, also the name of the detective. 
This is the sixth of the series, published in this new edition with a new introduction from publisher Otto Penzler. Penzler hails Queen as the giant of the inter war Golden Age of American mystery writing and a peer of the likes of Agatha Christie. I’m not entirely convinced by that comparison, but I did enjoy the puzzle that Dannay and Lee laid out in The American Gun Mystery.
The hallmark of this type of mystery is a crime early on that seems impossible to solve. That’s certainly the case here, with Buck Horne, noted star of numerous silent westerns, shot dead on his horse as he takes part in the dramatic opening of a new rodeo show along with 40 other riders. The mystery lies in the fact that he has been shot dead with a gun that cannot then be found and which is of a markedly different type to the many others surround Buck at the time of his death.
It’s an engaging conundrum, and the solution, when it is laid out by Queen at the end is credible if slightly unlikely. Crucially, the clues to solve it were, with the benefit of hindsight, all there in the text, that being the test of a so-called ‘fair play’ mystery.
For a book that is nearly 90 years old it is all very readable, although the middle section did drag a bit, being full of the kind of red herrings that are essential to this kind of tale. The dialogue is definitely on the stifled side and Queen himself is far from likeable. When this kind of genius detective character is done well it can work (think Holmes or Poirot) but here I found myself at times hoping that Queen wouldn’t solve the crime because he was such an arrogant dick. Even more problematic was the treatment of Djuna, a Romany boy whom Queen has adopted and “civilised”. It’s the kind of casual racism that was common in the 1930s, and which leaves a bad taste in the mouth today. A more palatable anachronism is the use of the word Brobdingnagian, which I’ve never seen outside of the Lemony Snickets books. 
Overall this is a fun vintage read. The mystery is engaging and the solution amusing, even if the telling of it leaves a little to be desired. If I were rating them separately I’d probably give the mystery 4 stars and the writing 2. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which you value more.
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This is an early Ellery Queen mystery written and set in the early 1930s. These early Queen mysteries are somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand the stories are usually fairly cleverly plotted and the murders ingenuous. On the other hand Ellery Queen is depicted as an upper class stuffed shirt with extremely annoying speech patterns. Think of Philo Vance on a particularly bad day. The reader is usually prepared to put up with the latter to enjoy the former but fortunately Queen the author humanizes Queen the detective as the series of books approached the 1940s.

To my mind The American Gun Mystery is one of the weaker early Queen novels. The plot involves murder during a rodeo in a crowded 20,000 seat arena. Trying to plot a baffling mystery given such circumstances is a very ambitious task which Queen does not quite pull off. Granted, in any "classic" murder mystery the reader grants the author a certain literary license in the way of plausibility. In real life complex murder plans are impossible to pull off because no murderer can possibly control the large number of real life variables. All we ask of an author is not to stretch our credulity too far. At several points in Queen's plot he asks way too much of the reader. Without going into details it is beyond reason that with 20,000 potential witnesses that the murderer and the subsequent hiding of the gun will not be witnessed by scores of people in the act. Certainly no rational murderer would risk this.

Other annoyances are the completely unnecessary framing sequence and introduction by "J.J.McC." This serves no real purpose and Queen thankfully jettisoned it as he moved away from strictly "whodunits" to "whydunits".

Still, the book is not a waste of time but I would not recommend it as one's first Ellery Queen book
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From the Golden Age of classic crime,  The American Gun Mystery is the 6th in the Ellery Queen mystery series.  Ellery and his dad Inspector Queen witness a suspicious death at a Rodeo, Ellery has his ideas but hasn't the proof to support his convictions, much to Inspector Queen's annoyance.  Although the plot is improbable at points  that is part of of joy of reading an Ellery Queen as you are trying to work out who dunnit too.  You also get to spend time in the Queen's company which is always entertaining.  Just keep in mind when you are reading that this was written in 1933.
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The American Gun Mystery by Ellery Queen is being re-released for the first time in thirty years. It was written in the golden age of mystery and remains one of the classic forms of “puzzle” mysteries that is currently in publication. As a style of writing, it is no longer as much in fashion; yet it still holds the reader’s interest in terms of setting a problem, providing all the clues, and letting the reader try and solve the puzzle before all is revealed.

In some ways, comparing this book to a modern day mystery novel is a bit like comparing a black and white movie with one done in full color. There is much that is dated about this book, and yet there is something quintessentially classic at the same time. That classic aspect will appeal to those readers who want an intellectual challenge and an opportunity to match wits with the author.

For readers who enjoy visualizing the book as they read, it will be helpful if they have an image of Ellery Queen, the fictional detective of the book, along with his father Inspector Queen, the veteran Sergeant Velie, and Djuna, the Queen’s houseboy. While it isn’t necessary to the story, the image of those central characters will help create a picture of the action of this story.

I first read Ellery Queen when I was in my teens, primarily because the books were readily available in my house. Reading this novel was like a return to those early years of reading, when I liked nothing more than to have a challenge set in the form of a puzzle. For anyone who enjoys puzzles, be they crossword or logic puzzles etc., this book will offer the same type of opportunity.

The author Ellery Queen is scrupulous in providing all the information the reader needs to solve the murder. In the same fashion he has employed over multiple novels, he also stops the book at about the 90% read point and speaks directly to the reader. Here he takes the time to advise them that they now have all the information required and challenges them to solve the puzzle. This is the reader’s opportunity to go back, reread anything they want, and see if they can solve the mystery on their own before all is revealed.

Of course, it isn’t necessary for the reader to solve the problem. The final pages of the book have Ellery Queen, the detective, enumerating the facts and explaining how he arrived at the “correct” conclusion. It is a unique style that readers who like to match wits with authors, will appreciate. If you are looking for a fast-paced book, filled with tension and danger at the turn of every page, this is not the novel for you. However, if you enjoy puzzles and bringing an intellectual approach to reading and solving mysteries, look no further. Be prepared, Ellery Queen, the detective, is an exceptional intellect and, as such his conversation is urbane and, at times, quite academic. Your own vocabulary may be challenged at times, although not to the point of not being able to understand the book or the information provided.

I found this book a refreshing change. Certainly there is no danger of Ellery Queen, the author, underestimating the intelligence of his readers. Rather, reading this book can leave the reader little doubt that their intelligence is acknowledged, appreciated, and encouraged. My thanks to Penzler Publishers American Mystery Classics and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy for this review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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