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Ellin identifies not only with Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, and Arthur Conan Doyle but also with Fyodor Dostoevski and William Faulkner, who also dealt with the theme of crime and punishment." Art Taylor, a writer of stories for such venues as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and a reviewer for the Washington Post Book World and other periodicals, wrote that "what has given Ellin such lasting renown in the pantheon of short story writers is surely the precision of his plotting: the clockwork accuracy by which each element of a given tale contributes subtly, effortlessly, inexorably toward some crushing plot turn or crisp final image.
Reflecting in the collection's introduction on the short story writers who influenced him, Ellin himself praised how De Maupassant 'reduced stories to their absolute essence' and how his endings, 'however unpredictable,' ultimately seemed 'as inevitable as doom'—qualities which Ellin emulated and perfected in his own work." ...several of Ellin's best-known and best-loved works end somewhere shy of telling the full story, instead leaving the reader him- or herself to fill in some of the blanks.
"The Specialty of the House," for example, lays out all the clues behind the culinary masterpieces at Sbirro's [Restaurant] but we readers have to figure out exactly what's going on back in that kitchen.
At the end of "The House Party," Ellin provides glimpses of the true nature of the festivities but then leaves us uneasily sorting through the larger ramifications...
He admitted to having rewritten the opening paragraph of a short story as many as forty times before going on to the next paragraph and polishing each subsequent page in similar fashion before proceeding further...In May 1948, his first sale, and one of Ellin's most famous short stories, "The Specialty of the House" ("Speciality of the House" in England), appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.