The Chinese Orange Mystery is the perfect ammunition for people who don’t like mysteries. It goes all-in on all of the most annoying tropes of mystery novels, the ones that drive non-fans nuts. The characters are paper-thin, the dialogue is stilted and almost entirely expository, the plotting is entirely consumed by the puzzle without any consideration of the reality of murder. The detective, Ellery Queen, is an insufferable fop who refuses to ever disclose what he is thinking or who he suspects of the crime. The authors, writing under their protagonist’s name as a pseudonym, have the nerve to interrupt the story to announce to the reader, about 80% of the way in, that they have all the information necessary to solve the crime. They thing proceed to unwind a solution so unlikely and absurd that it’s hard to believe even the authors thought of it.
If this was the first mystery novel you ever read you would hate mysteries. I say this as someone who is not a partisan in the long-running war between fans of “cozy” Golden Age mysteries and hard-boiled detective fiction, but as I got closer and closer to the end of this mystery I kept rooting for someone like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe to show up and sock Ellery Queen in the jaw.