Confession: I've always had a sort of problem with the Ellery Queen books - one of the reasons why they are not on my top TOP list of favorites - and this stems from the two fictional characters themselves, Ellery Queen who is a combo brilliant detective/writer and his dad, NYC Police detective Inspector Queen. They are just not very interesting people. In truth, they are a rather boring 'couple'. So it's fair to say that the crimes in these stories are meant to be more important and/or interesting than the detectives who solve them. I won't quibble with the idea. But for me, there usually has to be some sort of connection or affection for the main characters. Otherwise, I'm only reading for the puzzle. Not that that is, necessarily a bad thing, but it's just not what lingers for long in my memory. It's affection that lingers. (By the way, I was never all that fond of the tv series, either.)
A quick word of expo: Ellery Queen, author of the Queen books was the pseudonym of writers Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. They also founded the Ellery Queen magazine. Within the fictional stories, the main character is named Ellery Queen, who also edits the Ellery Queen magazine. A bit confusing, but you get used to it.
Okay, so having said that, I still enjoyed CAT OF MANY TAILS. It's such a damn fine puzzle and the setting, a frenzied fearful NYC - a serial strangler run amok - is well developed and brought to vivid life. The NYC of the 1940's/50's is the New York I grew up in, so I do retain affectionate memories of the city at that time.
The stranglings in Queen's book are particularly ugly crimes, they appear to be consciousless acts of random brutality. Or are they? What is the connecting link between the 9 victims? The police are stumped. The press revels. The city is in a panic. The crimes go on. The detecting brilliance of Ellery Queen is called for. He is brought in as a special investigator, but the stranglings continue.
When the final denouement occurs, it is less than completely satisfying because of its 'tortuous' nature. Writer Ellery Queen was, perhaps, unhappy with his own solution, so he turned it around and offered another.
Still, I recommend the book. It brought back the world of 1940's/early 50's New York City. A funny thing: when reading this, I saw EVERYTHING in black and white. (Possibly influenced by my own few remaining photos of the time.) It was a b/w world, I suppose, until the advent of color film. But for me, Ellery Queen seems even MORE b/w than most. Something in the prose, most likely.
I also read and liked Queen's THE SCARLET LETTERS, but not enough for review. It was a good domestic murder, a psychological exposition of a very twisted mind. (Though not reviewed, I'm assuming this counts anyway towards my Challenge reading total.)
This review of CAT OF MANY TAILS is my first submission in the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge. See details of the Challenge here at Bev's blog, My Reader's Block.