The Murderer is a Fox by Ellery Queen (1945)

Twelve years ago Bayard Fox was found guilty of murdering his wife, Jessica. In the present, his son, Davy, a decorated war hero, returns home to Wrightsville into the arms of his grateful family.

This happy homecoming is short-lived as Davy, suffering from severe PTSD (this surprised me given this was published so close to the end of the war) has a deep-seated desire to kill his wife. He might be able to overcome this urge if only he wasn’t convinced that he is genetically pre-disposed to murder. And so Ellery Queen returns to Wrightsville to re-open the cold case, hoping to save the son and redeem the father.

It was only after I’d finished and was mulling over writing this post that I realised this is Queen’s take on the same subject covered by Agatha Christie in Five Little Pigs. However there is a greater importance to this investigation – Caroline Crale had already died in prison and her daughter’s life would not have been that impacted if Poirot had not been able to clear her mother’s name – here Davy’s sanity and marriage hinges on the outcome and if Bayard is found innocent and is to be released then someone else will have to pay the price.

Whereas Poirot interviews his suspects individually, Ellery is able to reconstruct the fateful day with the aid of all participants in the previously boarded-up house, and although Poirot is lied to, Ellery is physically hampered by someone who does not want the original verdict overturned. There is one particular parallel which I would be interested in discussing with anyone who has read both books but which impinges on the solutions of both so I won’t disclose it here.

While there are no specific spoilers for the first Wrightsville book “Calamity Town” mentions of certain characters would eliminate them as suspects so reading in order is definitely recommended.

As with “Calamity Town” the characters are once again flesh-and-blood people who act like normal people – in stark contrast to those in the intervening “There Was an Old Woman” who serve to forward the plot – and yet Ellery, once he has the necessary piece of information, is still able to use his established method  to deduce a long chain of reasoning. I look forward to returning to Wrightsville in 2020.

What Else I’ve Been Reading Recently

A Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin –  recently widowed Imogen is awakened by a late-night phone call accusing her of killing her husband. Then once her relatives descend on her for Christmas strange things start to happen within her home – could her husband still be alive? Imogen is not sure what is going or why and neither is the reader – has a crime been committed? Is a crime going to be committed?

This was the second of my good quality charity shop finds – definitely worth £1 but to me definitely not worth full price, but I would give Fremlin another go secondhand. Kate’s more detailed and very positive review at crossexaminingcrime can be found here.








4 thoughts on “The Murderer is a Fox by Ellery Queen (1945)”

  1. Well done for branching out of your comfort zone with the Fremlin! I’m impressed you still want to give her another go, though she’s not a puzzle mystery sort of writer. I’ve enjoyed several others by her, but I am unsure whether to recommend them or not, as they’re certainly no Ellery Queen!


  2. This is one of my least favorite Wrightsville novels. It is has two flaws. First the solution is speculation. It lacks proof. Second you have question Ellery’s final decision on moral lines. Here is a problem. Anyone who strangles his wife in his sleep must have problems. Clearing the name of his father is not going to help with that. This was another Queen that was spoiled by a online reviewer. Still not much of a loss given the solution.

    Liked by 1 person

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