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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Glass Village

cover image By: Queen, Ellery (pseudonym of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee) (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (1082)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 356: PS3533 .U4 G55 1955
Contributor: K. Quinlivan


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Ellery Queen Geographic Locale: Shinn Corners (fictional New England town) - population 36 Date of Publication: 1955  |  Original Date: 1954 Setting: rural; small village containing dilapidated houses, farms and mills Motives: greed

Plot Summary

On the surface, the tiny village of Shinn Corners is merely a deteriorating New England backwater whose biggest excitement is the annual Fourth of July celebration. Its seemingly placid exterior is violently disrupted the day elderly artist Aunt Fanny Adams, the town's most beloved citizen, is beaten to death with a poker. A foreign-looking vagabond spotted leaving Aunt Fanny's residence quickly becomes the prime suspect in the minds of the local villagers, and they form a posse to hunt him down. Eager for immediate vengeance, they forego the usual legal farmalities and take matters into their own hands. In an attempt to deter his fellow citizens from carrying out their version of lynch mob justice, elderly Judge Shinn opens a trial. He deliberately fills the trial with legal blunders and miscues, hoping that it will appease the mob's thirst for vengeance but eventually be overturned by an appeals court. The lone voice of reason on the jury is the judge's visiting cousin, Johnny Shinn, whose unwavering pursuit of the truth ultimately exposes the actual murderer.

Major Characters

Lewis Shinn adult male, elderly, cantankerous, intelligent, Superior Court judge

Johnny Shinn adult male, 31 years old, former Army intelligence officer and Korean War veteran

Aunt Fanny Adams adult female, elderly, 91 years old, kindly wrinkled face, good-natured, celebrated wealthy artist and town benefactor

Josef Kowalczyk adult male, 42 years old, blondish-gray hair, Polish immigrant, itinerant farm worker

Calvin Waters "Laughing" Waters, adult male, tall, thin, stone-faced, town custodian

Peter Berry adult male, middle-aged, large, fat jowly face, blue eyes, storekeeper and car mechanic

Emily Berry adult female, thin, dowdy, storekeeper's wife

Burney Hackett adult male, widower, town constable, fire chief, town clerk, tax collector and insurance salesman

Prue Plummer adult female, middle-aged, thin, gray hair, liverish complexion, artsy, antique dealer

Orville Pangman adult male, large, beefy farmer

Hube Hemus adult male, skinny, gaunt face, alert, watchful, farmer and First Selectman of the village

Rebecca Hemus adult female, "great cow of a woman," housewife

Merton Isbel "Mert," adult male, large build, stubborn, farmer and widower

Hosey Lemmon adult male, older, beard, ex-farmer turned hermit

Ferriss Adams adult male, middle-aged, brown hair, blotchy face, dapper, lawyer

Samuel Sheare adult male, lean, elderly, minister

Elizabeth Sheare adult female, stout, anxious, minister's wife

Andy Webster adult male, elderly, retired, former judge


fireplace poker

Level of Violence

the murder scene is described briefly and without relish. The murder suspect is violently beaten by the villagers who gloat over his weakened physical condition. Guns are fired when the state police attempt to move the suspect out of town, but no one is injured.


there are a few brief references to the physical attractiveness (or lack thereof) of the women in the novel. One female villager ran off with a man from New York, became pregnant and returned to the village; she is viewed as an outcast by her father.

Gender Roles

aside from Aunt Fanny Adams, who became an artist at the age of eighty, the women are primarily housewives who cook, clean, and care for assorted children, husbands and invalid relatives. In most cases, they are viewed as strong, intelligent, and capable, well able to manage their affairs and frequently smarter than their male counterparts. As Aunt Fanny states, "It's the mothers make the men." Most of the male characters are farmers, hard-working but lacking in intelligence and compassion.


the villagers routinely fear and mistrust anyone who comes from beyond the borders of their village. Whether they hail from New York or Poland, outsiders are labeled as foreigners. Viewing their fellow citizens with a mixture of scorn and pity, both Johnny and the Judge realize that the villagers are locked into the narrow confines of their isolated world, their bigotry and intolerance developed over the course of many generations. The murder suspect, a Polish immigrant who speaks broken English, is portrayed in a sympathetic light, having survived the horrors of a Nazi labor camp and seen his family slaughtered.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

in keeping with their Puritanical ways, the villagers rarely consume any kind of alcohol. Johnny and the Judge occasionally have a drink, and Johnny smokes a few cigarettes at times to relax his jagged nerves.

Law Enforcement

in this tiny village, the local town constable dictates the interpretation of the law and adapts it to suit himself. The locals view the sheriff and the state police with suspicion, and are quite willing to interpret the law as they see fit. The Judge is a firm believer in defending the rights of the accused as guaranteed by the Constitution, and he frequently cites examples from American history as a means of explaining his actions.

Added Features

geographical isolation contributes to social, political and spiritual narrow-mindedness. The town's best days ended during the last century and the little prosperity that once existed has ceased altogether. The few remaining farmers and villagers barely manage to eke out a living, but they do retain a strong sense of pride in their New England roots and Puritan code of ethics. For generations, the villagers have all belonged to the same fundamentalist church and the same political party (Republican), suspicious of anyone who holds different religious or political views. Back-country spirit and Yankee pride dictate that no crime goes unpunished and justice must prevail, even if it means taking the law into one's own hands. Poverty, lack of education, and difficult economic conditions lead to fear, mistrust, and a sense of hopelessness. The novel effectively evokes the paranoia of the McCarthy era while making a strong plea for upholding the rights of the individual as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Subject Headings

New England/ Veterans/ Murder/ Trials/ Revenge/ Justice

Psychological Elements

Johnny, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, is haunted by nightmares of the torturous conditions he endured during those conflicts. He has been through hell, seen the aftermath of violence, and is without hope. He is disillusioned by the narrow-minded cruelty of his fellow jurors and by the fact that despite the suffering endured during the wars, nothing ever really changes.