The Virgin Heiresses (aka The Dragon's Teeth) by Ellery Queen (1939)
Two phrases came to mind when I finally put down this book: "backdoor pilot" and "eight deadly words."
Why did I find the first phrase applicable? According to Wikipedia: A backdoor pilot is defined by Variety as a "pilot episode filmed as a standalone movie so it can be broadcast if not picked up as a series".It is distinguished from a simple pilot in that it has a dual purpose. It has an inherent commercial value of its own while also being "proof of concept for the show, that's made to see if the series is worth bankrolling". This definition also includes episodes of one show introducing a spin-off.
One of the main characters in this book is Beau Rummell, the son of one of Inspector Queen's old colleagues who opens a detective agency with Ellery Queen. Much of the book is seen either seen through the eyes of Rummell or centers around him and his interactions with other characters. Rummell appeared in none of the books published previous to this one and continues to not appear in the books published afterwards. It feels as if the authors were either trying out a new character or a new style of writing. In the opinion of this reader they do neither well.
Which brings us to the second phrase, Dorothy Heydt's eight deadly words "I don't care what happens to these people." The characters failed to interest me enough to care whether they lived or died or were railroaded for committing murder. Ellery Queen himself seemed to have been replaced by an even more bloodless pod-person version of himself and the rest of characters rarely rose above being (very thin) cardboard cut-outs being moved around rather lackadaisically by authors who did not themselves really care what happened to most of them.
The measure of how boring, uninvolving and uninteresting this book was is that I didn't even have the heart to catalogue the racism, sexism, classism and essentialism of the story and characters.
Rating: 0 stars