Thursday, January 9, 2014

"A Clock That Wasn't There"

"The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party."
By Ellery Queen.
Short story.
First published in Red Book Magazine, October 1934. Collected in THE ADVENTURES OF ELLERY QUEEN (1934).
Filmed for TV in 1975.
"Well, there it is. You've just found out something that I've known since late yesterday: that [DELETED] is dead and that one of the people in the library killed him. But how, and why, and when—and I guess, more to the point, who? Now the key to the solution involves a clock that wasn't there—or if it was, why didn't I see its reflection in the mirror? You got the answer? Let's find out."
Easily one of the most popular EQ stories, and it saw life on film:
Richard Owen has invited Ellery Queen to his son's birthday party. The theme for the party is Alice in Wonderland and all the major characters of the story are busy rehearsing for the next day's event. Ellery spends a restless night, stumbles into a strange room during the night when he is looking for the library, an event which helps him later to solve the case of the missing Mad Hatter. — Arun Kumar, THE INGENIOUS GAME OF MURDER (March 12, 2012)
I've always liked mysteries that connect themselves in wacky ways with nursery rhymes and children's stories, and this is among the best of them. The cousins must also [have] enjoyed theatrics among their repertoire of mystery tricks, for when Ellery manages to reach an isolated friend's home in the hinterlands on Long Island—on a dark and rainy night, yet—he's confronted with the other guests acting out their roles in a scene from Alice in Wonderland.
And when the host mysteriously disappears during the night, and mysterious packages beginning arriving—all connected with Alice once again—it makes for one of the cleverest detective stories in the entire collection. Did I mention one scene in which the entire party is drugged and falls asleep for several hours? I should have.
I don't think that many people will catch on to what's going on in this one. It's a beauty. — Steve Lewis, from a review of The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1934), MYSTERY*FILE (29 February 2008)
The TV adaptation has also proven quite popular:
"The Mad Tea Party" (1934) is a classic of misdirection. EQ picked it as his best short story; after Agatha Christie's "The Affair at the Bungalow," it is the subtlest and most deceptive of all detective short stories. It was made into a superb and faithful TV show, as an episode of the 1975 Jim Hutton Ellery Queen TV series. The story was first broadcast October 30, 1975, and was scripted by Peter S. Fischer and directed by James Sheldon. — Mike Grost, A GUIDE TO CLASSIC MYSTERY AND DETECTION ("The Adventures of Ellery Queen")
The murder in this one is not official until the end of the show. It is officially a disappearance. Ellery is right in the middle of it as he alone has to put together the clues that lead to the killer. Interesting that the Mad Hatter is the missing one. Queen actually plays the suspects like a parlor game to solve this one. A top notch episode in the series, not to be missed. — DKOSTY, IMDb
"The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party" is, shockingly enough, the only regular episode from the entire series to be based on an actual short story by Ellery Queen. It's also one of the best episodes of the series. . . And—best of all!—this episode represents Jim Hutton's best performance yet as Ellery. — Nathanael Booth, MORE MAN THAN PHILOSOPHER (24 February 2011)
If you happen to watch the show, note the sly character name changes: Lockridge, Biggers, Gardner, Doyle, Allingham, Rinehart, Carr.

Category: Detective fiction

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