Ten Days' Wonder
First US edition
|Series||Ellery Queen mysteries|
|Publisher||Little, Brown (US)
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Murderer is a Fox|
|Followed by||Cat of Many Tails|
Howard Van Horn, son of millionaire Diedrich Van Horn, comes to Ellery Queen with the request that Ellery investigate what Howard has been doing during a recent bout with amnesia. The trail leads to the small New England town of Wrightsville and what seems to be a love triangle with Howard's stepmother, the beautiful young Sally, from the "wrong side of the tracks" in class-conscious Wrightsville. A series of small and unusual crimes over the next nine days seem to be committed by Howard during amnesiac blackouts, and Ellery Queen suddenly realizes the bizarre pattern that underpins the series of crimes. But it is only after the murder of one Van Horn and the suicide of another that Ellery Queen can reveal the true pattern underlying events and bring a crime home to the criminal.
Literary significance & criticism
(See Ellery Queen.) After many popular mystery novels, a radio program and a number of movies, the character of Ellery Queen was at this point firmly established. This novel is the third to take place against the setting of the imaginary New England town of Wrightsville (following Calamity Town and The Murderer is a Fox) and, as is common in the Wrightsville novels, depends more on characterization, atmosphere and the observed minutiae of small-town American life than many other Queen novels; this novel less so, because of the necessity to make characters and events fit into the underlying format. "The town with its gossip and cliques is well done ... [one of] the complex and mundane mysteries ... favored by the ingenious authors." "All Wrightsville murders are well written as more attention is given to character development and humor. The way some Wrightsville stories interlink only adds to the fun ... This is the era wherein Ellery Queen experiments with minimalism as his work is stripped down to its most fundamental features. ... The more fallible side to Ellery is especially emphasized. Nowhere else is the limitation of reason better shown than in Ten Days' Wonder. Ellery went through the turmoil of extreme self-doubt, almost giving up on being a detective ... and another double-twist ending. Brilliant portrayals, be it a little far-fetched."
"(Ellery's) exploits took place more frequently in the small town of Wrightsville, where his arrival as a house guest was likely to be the signal for the commission of one or more murders. Very intelligently, Dannay and Lee used this change in locale to loosen the structure of their stories. More emphasis was placed on personal relationships, and less on the details of investigation. ... In later stories, however, fantastic ingenuity takes over at the expense of characterization, as in Ten Days' Wonder ... One can admire the ingenuity, and yet sense that there is something wrong about the way in which Queen is turning back to Van Dine and abandoning the possibilities glimpsed in the first Wrightsville books."
The book was made into the 1971 film Ten Days' Wonder directed by Claude Chabrol and starring Orson Welles, Anthony Perkins and Marlène Jobert as Van Horn father, son and wife/stepmother (their first names changed to Theo, Charles and Helene), and Michel Piccoli as "Paul Regis", who (although there is no character named Ellery Queen) is the principal investigator.
- Barzun, Jacques and Taylor, Wendell Hertig. A Catalogue of Crime (revised edition) New York: Harper and Row, 1989 (first published 1971). ISBN 0-06-015796-8
- A website on Ellery Queen
- Symons, Julian, Bloody Murder (From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel: A History). London: Faber and Faber 1972, with revisions in Penguin Books 1974. ISBN 0-14-003794-2. Page 157 et seq."