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One of my favorite parts of the Classic of the Month series is finding classics that are perhaps a little less well-known, but still really good. That’s why today we’re going to look at a classic mystery that doesn’t normally crop up on “traditional” classics lists. This is a locked room mystery featuring the classic detective Ellery Queen.

Book of the Month:

The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934)

Opening Words

Miss Diversey fled Dr. Kirk’s study followed by a blistering mouthful of ogrish growls. She stood still in the corridor outside the old gentleman’s door, her cheeks burning, and one of her square, washed-out hands pressed to the outraged starch of her bosom. She could hear the angry septuagenarian scuttling about the study in his wheel chair like a Galapagos turtle, muttering anathemas upon her white-capped head in a fantastic potpourri of ancient Hebrew, classic Greek, French, and English.

The Chinese Orange Mystery, Ellery Queen

What’s it all about?

In this tantalizing locked room mystery, the body of an unknown caller is discovered in the empty waiting room of Dr. Donald Kirk, foreign literature publisher and renowned stamp collector. It seems that no one has entered or left the room (apart from the dead man of course), but strangely everything in the room has been manipulated, left backwards and upside down. To add to the confusion, two spears are jutting down the back of the corpse’s shirt and a tangerine (the titular Chinese orange) is missing from the fruit bowl. Amateur sleuth Ellery Queen arrives just in time to witness the discovery of the body, only to be immediately drawn into the mystery.

Read this if you enjoy…

  • Locked room mysteries
  • Amateur detectives
  • Mysteries that provide all the clues necessary for the reader to solve them

Final Thoughts

The Chinese Orange Mystery was not my first locked room mystery, but I’ve always been a huge fan of the genre. There’s something so thrilling about trying to solve an impossible mystery. After all, how could a killer escape if the room was locked and there was no way out? I read this book with my grandfather during the height of the pandemic and we both greatly enjoyed attempting to solve the mystery together. And unlike some mysteries, this one promises that you have all of the clues you could possibly need in order to find the solution, if only you were paying attention. My grandpa and I did not solve the mystery. But, perhaps you’ll do a little better?

Erin

I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.