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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Roman Hat Mystery

cover image By: Queen, Ellery (pseudonym of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee) (male)
Publisher: New American Library (Signet Books P3229)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 357: PS3533 .U4 R6 1967b
Contributor: G. Yavicoli


Era: 1920s Author as on Cover: Ellery Queen Geographic Locale: New York City Date of Publication: 1967  |  Original Date: 1929 Setting: urban; the Broadway theatre district and all aspects of the theatre business, including management and performers. Includes apartment complexes throughout New York City, legal offices, and extremely wealthy neighborhoods of society's upper class elite Motives: blackmail, murder, greed, revenge, gambling

Plot Summary

Inspector Richard Queen is called to the Roman Theatre to investigate the murder of the notoriously crooked lawyer and blackmailer Monte Field. Upon arriving, he questions Doyle, the police officer who has taken charge of the crime scene, and commandeers members of the theatre's administrative staff to help him conduct his investigation. He also contacts his son Ellery, who arrives shortly thereafter. While searching Field's person, they discover a woman's handbag in his pocket. The handbag belongs to Frances Ives-Pope, society blue-blood and daughter of wealthy financier Franklin Ives-Pope, who happens to be in the audience. Inspector Queen questions her along with members of the cast, including her fiancée, an actor named Stephen Barry, and he learns that several members of the audience had connections with Field. Working in tandem, Inspector Queen and Ellery sort through the maze of evidence and suspects, ultimately deducing the murderer's identity. In order to prove their suspicions, they devise a trap for the murderer, and their case is solved when the murderer takes the bait.

Major Characters

Ellery Queen "El", adult male, tall, youthful appearance, rimless glasses, long delicate lines on face, bright eyes, mystery writer, amateur detective/sleuth

Inspector Richard Queen "Dick", adult male, middle-aged, gray moustache, short, wiry build, thick gray hair, walks with a stoop, slender hands, veiled gray eyes, withered and mild appearance of an older gentleman, police inspector and father of Ellery Queen

Stephen Barry "Steve" adult male, handsome, young, pleasant voice, actor and fiancée of Frances Ives-Pope

Monte Field adult male, 5 feet 8 inches tall, bloated face, deep pouches under eyes, clean shaven, prominent nose, crooked lawyer and blackmailer who runs a vast criminal organization, has many enemies, lost a fortune through financial speculation and gambling

Doyle adult male, tall, large build, huge hands, booming voice, broad face, police officer

Louis Panzer adult male, middle-aged, stocky build, foreign-looking, swarthy appearance, Latin face, manager of the Roman Theatre

Harry Neilson adult male, middle-aged, tall, tow-headed, rugged face, publicity coordinator for the Roman Theatre

William Pusak adult male, 32 years old, small, thin, frail, bookkeeper in a clothing store, womanizer, does not gamble or drink, discovers Monte Fields' body

Benjamin Morgan "Ben" adult male, middle-aged appearance, shrewd eyes, paunchy, grizzled, lawyer and former law partner of Monte Field, married with several children

Dr. Samuel Prouty "Doc" adult male, tall, lanky, assistant medical examiner

Jessie Lynch "Jess" adolescent male, 19 years old, small, slim, sells orangeade at the Roman Theatre

John Cazzanelli "Parson Johnny," "John the Wop," and "Peter Dominick" adult male, short, ratlike appearance, career criminal, once used by Monte Field in his illegal activities, Madge O'Connell's boyfriend

Madge O'Connell adult female, young, pert, slender, ghastly smile, wears a lot of makeup, usherette at the Roman Theatre and girlfriend of John Cazzanelli

Frances Ives-Pope adult female, young, attractive, brown eyes, creamy complexion, black hair, brilliant white teeth, fiancée of Stephen Barry and daughter of Franklin Ives-Pope

Henry Sampson adult male, thin, bright eyes, district attorney, assists Inspector Queen in solving the case

Charles Michaels "Charley" adult male, tall and burly, powerfully built, ponderous, solemn features, blank eyes, Monte Field's valet and bodyguard

Dr. Thaddeus Jones "Professor Jones" adult male, tall, thin, entirely bald, emaciated appearance, closely clipped beard, large hands, deep voice, toxicologist for the city of New York

Oscar Levin adult male, tall and lean, grayed temples, lanky, shifty black eyes, extremely thin, office manager for Monte Field

Sergeant Thomas Veile adult male, large, powerfully built, enormous hands, police sergeant

James Peale adult male, tall, handsome, robust-looking, rich baritone voice, actor and close friend of Stephen Barry


tetra ethyl lead poison

Level of Violence

the only graphic violence occurs when the police capture Stephen Barry and are forced to shoot him in the shoulder. The only other violent episode occurs when Stephen Barry poisons Monte Field, but this is not described in any detail.


there are no sexual situations included. However, Angela Russo, Monte Field's fiancée and a former prostitute, is living in his apartment. The murderer, Stephen Barry, is engaged to Frances Ives-Pope, who is described as being very attractive, but nothing sexual is suggested in terms of their relationship.

Gender Roles

female characters are relegated to the background while the male characters dominate the action. Women do not hold any occupations or positions requiring authority or expertise. They are usherettes or secretaries. Frances Ives-Pope is completely fooled by Stephen Barry, and does not suspect that he is only using her to gain part of her father's fortune. When Inspector Queen questions Frances Ives-Pope, she cannot handle the stress and faints.


one of John Cazzanelli's nicknames is "John the Wop." One of the pieces of blackmail that Field holds over Stephen Barry is the fact that Barry has a small percentage of Negro blood from one of his ancestors. This is portrayed as something very negative and shameful, and if revealed to Franklin Ives-Pope, would have caused him to call off the marriage between Barry and his daughter.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

most characters smoke; Ellery Queen smokes cigarettes, Louis Panzer smokes long Turkish cigarettes and Dr. Prouty smoke cigars. Monte Field was a heavy drinker who was intoxicated when Barry poisoned him, and his body reeks of alcohol when examined after his death. There are also several insinuations that Stanford Ives-Pope, son of the wealthy financier Franklin Ives-Pope, is a problem drinker.

Law Enforcement

the police are highly capable, determined, hard-working individuals, who take their responsibilities very seriously. Although Monte Field is a despicable individual, the police make every effort to solve his murder. There are no incidents of bribery, and the police officers have impeccable reputations. Inspector Queen is the model police officer and his reputation is beyond reproach. The medical examiner, police fingerprint team, and police photographers all carry out their duties to the highest standard. The legal experts from the district attorney's office who assist Inspector Queen with the legal intricacies of the case are all highly proficient. When the police shoot Stephen Barry, they are acting in self-defense and are completely justified.

Added Features

the New York City theatre plays a large role in the story. Monte Field had a vast collection of handwriting analysis literature and had become an expert forger. In order to perpetuate the blackmail operation, he used his skill as a forger to make copies of the documents he obtained on his victims, selling the copies back to his victims while he retained the originals.

Subject Headings

Greed/ Police/ Murder/ New York (N.Y.)/ Blackmail/ Gambling/ Actresses/ Actors/ Theater life/ Law and Lawyers

Psychological Elements

Monte Field's actions were driven by greed. Accustomed to having the best in life, he starts a blackmailing operation as a means of continuing his extravagant lifestyle after gambling away his fortune. Stephen Barry is motivated by greed and self-preservation. He has also incurred large gambling debts, and plans to marry Frances Ives-Pope in order to gain part of her father's vast fortune. When Field threatens to expose Barry to Franklin Ives-Pope, this causes Barry to poison him. Inspector Queen is motivated by a strong sense of duty and determination to see that justice is done. Ellery Queen remains very calm despite the turbulence going on around him, and his powers of logical deduction are the primary reason the case is solved.