The Dragon Murder Case
|Author||S. S. Van Dine|
|Publisher||Scribners (USA) & Cassell (UK)|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Kennel Murder Case|
|Followed by||The Casino Murder Case|
A guest at an estate in northern Manhattan (Inwood Hill Park) dives into the swimming pool and disappears. His murder brings up references to a mythological dragon which is said to prey on the imprudent, but Philo Vance uses his knowledge of both dragons and criminals to demonstrate whodunnit.
The estate in the novel was based on Tryon Hall, a mansion in Fort Tryon Park, built after 1900 by Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings, a retired president of the Chicago Coke and Gas Company. In 1917 he sold the mansion to John D. Rockefeller Jr.. The mansion burned down in 1925, and Rockefeller donated the land where it was located on to the city. (More information on the building and land under the "Fort Tryon and Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson" section of Hudson Heights article.)
Literary significance and criticism
The Dragon Murder Case is the seventh novel featuring Van Dine's Philo Vance character. Some critics saw this as marking a significant change in the series, including crime novelist Julian Symons who wrote, "The decline in the last six Vance books is so steep that the critic who called the ninth of them 'one more stitch in his literary shroud' was not overstating the case." Further unfavorable critiques from culture historian Jacques Barzun noted, "The estate and its denizens are meant to be as picturesque as the persons and the plot, but all succeed only in being as egregious and improbable as Philo Vance and his antics. This tale is one of the author's worst ..."
The Dragon Murder Case (1934) starred Warren William as Philo Vance and Robert Barratt as Rudolph Stam. The movie featured a large dragon illustration behind the opening and closing credits. Montague disappears after diving into a natural pool of water on the estate. Several people dive in and try to find him, but there is no trace of him. Philo Vance and the DA come to investigate and decide to drain the pool. They were told that there were craters in the pool, and sure enough Montague's body is found at the bottom of a very deep crater. His body has claw marks on it, consistent with the superstition that a dragon inhabits the pool.
- The text of the novel is available from Project Gutenberg, Australia
- The Dragon Murder Case (1934 film) at the Internet Movie Database