And so, to the demand of absolutely no-one, I return to my bibliography of reviews of the novels of Ellery Queen, aka Fred Dannay and Manfred Lee, after too long a break, caused almost completely by the discovery of Paul Doherty.
In The Door Between, we have one of the few locked room mysteries in the canon – Eva Maclure is waiting outside Karen Leith’s room for a long time – she can clearly hear her in there, initially at least, but when a ringing phone goes unanswered, she enters the room only to discover Leith dead on the floor with her throat cut and no other exits to the room, apart from a door bolted on the inside. The windows are all barred, so how did the killer escape?
There are a number of interesting things to say about this one, which I will proceed to do. But the all-important question is, is it any good? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure…
First thing to point out is that Ellery seems pretty normal in this one – very few, if any, of his overly verbose exclamations – he just seems like a pleasantly normal chap. It is possibly that this is because most of the book is seem through the eyes of Eva Maclure, and maybe she edits out the nonsense, but the book isn’t narrated by her – we just see her point of view of events for the scenes that she is present in – which is most of them.
There’s a good reason for this, in that we need to know that Eva, the only conceivable suspect for the police, is innocent. There’s basically no evidence for such a belief, until Ellery reveals the truth at the end of the book, so we need a mechanism to dismiss this solution as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this is such a clinical locked room that once you dismiss Eva, there isn’t really any other possibility apart from the truth – the writers lock the room too well and I expect the majority of the readers will be disappointed with the solution. I was – at least when a similar method was applied to another book that I read quite recently, there were other murders to add to the fun, so the disappointment was tempered by the other mysteries. Here, there is a second death, but it’s part of the solution and again, not vastly interesting.
I mentioned recently in my review of Death In Paradise, the new BBC drama, that the murderer was lucky as a few lucky happenings helped confuse the situation. There’s one incident that complicates matters here – just one – but it’s really, really odd. I think some readers might find it a little forced, to be honest, and given that the problem of the missing weapon only rears its head after a while, it seems a little odd that Ellery wouldn’t have spotted the solution earlier, as this is the only issue that he needs to resolve.
Anyway, so far, so fine, but now we come to the big problem with the book – Eva Maclure herself. I’m not a violent man in any way, shape or form, but if I could have reached into the book, grabbed her by the shoulders and yelled at her to grow up, I would have done. She’s absolutely unbearable – moping, falling for the first man who shows her interest, falling for the second man who shows her interest… and with the book written mostly from a spot just behind her head, tuned into her deepest thoughts… well, it doesn’t help. I presume the book was, like Half-Way House, serialised in a magazine that wanted the romantic elements as well as the mystery, but it got on my nerves throughout the book.
If you can stomach the Eva character, this isn’t a bad puzzle, but there’s not much to it. I can’t bring myself to recommend it except for a completist. Certainly don’t make this your first Ellery adventure.