There has been much debate about the lineage of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, with several scholars claiming for him some connection to the Sherlock Holmes universe either via Irene Adler or some member of the Holmes family. While impossible to prove either way such theories make sense in regard of Stout’s well known fondness for the Canon and the many allusions to it to be found in the course of the series.
Much less attention has been paid on the other hand to the parentage of the other Great American Detective, Ellery Queen. The fact that his own father plays a prominent role in the stories may explain that relative indifference – there is no mystery about who fathered our favorite writer sleuth.
What about his mother, however?
Little is known about her as both father and son are remarkably untalkative about their wife and mother. It is understood that she died long before the beginning of the series and she may have come from a good family but that’s all as far as I know (I still have a few Queens to read) Mystery fans being prone and trained to sense something fishy even in what appears to be the most trivial context, it is quite remarkable that no one ever seems to have tried to work out who brought one of the greatest detectives ever to the world.
Except me, maybe. I have long had a theory of mine about that and since I have nothing else to write about today I may as well share it with you. I admit it rests on tiny and shaky evidence but hey that’s what makes the game so fun.
The first « fact » is that Ellery and Richard Queen are not the characters’ real names. We are told so in the early novels known as the « Nationality » series by one J.J. McClure that (rather perfunctorily) introduces each book. The device as well as the preface writer were both dropped as the series progressed, but there’s nothing telling us that it wasn’t true. Who then the Queens really were? Why did they feel the need to hide their real names? The explanation given by « J.J. McClure » are not convincing at all.
The second « fact » is that Ellery doesn’t appear to have inherited his colossal deductive skills from his father who, despite being a more than competent detective, nearly always relies on his son to solve the complex cases that meet his way. Maybe then Ellery’s wits rather come from his mother, which then must have been quite a clever woman indeed.
Now let’s go back at the Canon. We know of a female character in it that was really smart, outsmarting even the Greatest Detective of All Time and then leaving England with her husband to an unknown destination. While she may have been dead by the time Watson wrote (« the late ») the veracity of this interpretation is still debated among scholars. What’s more, she was an American citizen.
This is where my theory begins. Let’s suppose – we don’t have any proof for that, but we’re talking about fictional characters after all, so who cares? – that The Woman and her husband flew to her native country to start a new life. Let’s suppose the husband, which we knew was a lawyer, entered the police force. Let’s suppose they had a son who inherited his mother’s brains. Let’s suppose that they decided to change their names so to escape public attention and possible revenge from her former lover. Let’s suppose they chose the « Queen » name because after all, she was once close to become one.
May Irene Adler have been Ellery Queen’s mother?
Once again I’m perfectly aware that there is no evidence supporting this theory and quite a few elements in both mythologies that don’t match. The reason why no one entertained it before me may just be that it’s too stupid for someone with half brain even to envision. Still, I think it would explain a lot about Ellery’s character; also Ellery is a far better and fitting candidate for the role than Nero Wolfe.
I’m ready for the straitjacket…