Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, January 20, 2017


The Woman in the Case by Ellery Queen (1966)

The cover of this Bantam Books paperback states "FIRST TIME IN PAPERBACK!" -- leading one to infer that there had been a previous hardbound edition.  'T'aint so.  In fact, this edition (simultaneously published in Canada) was the only edition ever published.   A quick check on Worldcat lists only six copies held in libraries -- exactly the number currently available on Abebooks with a price range from $3.50 to $36.00.  Add to this the fact that the book is the second of only two true crime collections published by Queen and you have what could deservedly be called a Forgotten Book.

Assembled here are nineteen brief articles first published in the Sunday newspaper supplement The American Weekly, from 1958 and 1959, all dealing with women who killed or who were killed..  Rhonda Belle Martin poisoned her husband for a $2,500 life insurance policy.  Irene Schroeder shot two policemen during routine traffic stop, killing one of them while her young son watched.  Young Eileen Soule bashed her roommate's head with a flat iron, her motive still in question.  Apartment house janitor Joe Nischt got rid of Rose Michaelis' body by incinerating it in the building's furnace and Nischt's wife eventually sued the tavern where he had been drinking the day of the murder, claiming he would never had killed if he had been sober -- she got $5,000 in damages.

In a well-known case from New Zealand, teenagers Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme murdered Parker's mother.  Because of their ages, they could not be given the death penalty; rather, they were ordered "detained at her Majesty's pleasure."  Queen's final paragraph in this article was short-sighted:  "Her Majesty's pleasure, according to New Zealand Authorities, will keep the teenage 'women' in this shocking case in prison for the rest of their natural lives."  Well, that didn't happen.  Both girls were eventually released, never to have contact with each other.  Juliet Hulme's name was changed to Anne Perry and she became a noted mystery author.

There's nothing major here for true crime aficionados who would be better served reading cases by William Roughead, Edward D. Radin, or any one of dozens of classic true crime authors.  Still, the pieces in The Woman in the Case are written in an entertaining, breezy style.   They may not have have depth, but they are quite enjoyable.


  1. I have several of the ELLERY QUEEN paperbacks from the Sixties. I know they were ghosted by others, but your review makes THE WOMAN IN THE CASE sound enticing. I'll have to give one a try!

  2. This one wasn't appear to be ghosted, George, but I'm not sure whether it was Dannay or Lee who wrote it and I'm too lazy to look it up.

  3. Jerry, I recently bought my first Ellery Queen, "Ellery's Queen's Own Case," which I hope to read soon. I have never read an EQ before.


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