Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Love Me a Good Twist Ending

There's no excuse for the classic mystery novels of Ellery Queen being out of print, but most or all of them seem to have been so for awhile now.

Fortunately, a new publisher has brought a trio of Queen's novels back onto the market, along with some other classic stuff. It's about time, doggonnit.

One of them is The Door Between (1937). I hadn't read this particular one before and it (as Queen's brilliantly constructed mysteries often do) pretty much knocked me on the floor when Ellery reveals whodunit at the end.

That, of course, is followed by another twist. This second twist is then followed by yet another twist. Gee whiz, this is great stuff--the sort of satisfying denouement that only Agatha Christie did better than Ellery Queen.

It's an interesting mystery right from the get-go. A woman is murdered while in her bedroom. The only possible exit is through a door that leads to a sitting room. When the murder occurred, the victim's future daughter-in-law is in the sitting room. She can swear that absolutely no one entered or left the bedroom before or after the murder.

So the only possible person who could have committed the crime is the perspective daughter-in-law.  It's literally impossible for anyone else to have done it. She has to be guilty.

Well, we readers know she's innocent--she's the point-of-view character for much of the novel and we're symbolically sitting beside her when the murder takes place. So who did it and HOW did the crime take place?

Aside from the great plot, there's a couple of other features that make this one stand out. A supporting character--Irish private eye Terry Rig--adds a lot of fun to the proceedings. (In fact, I think Terry would have made a great protagonist in his own right.)

Also, this is one of the few times--if not the only time--that Ellery and his dad (police Inspector Queen) are working at odds to each other rather than working together. The elder Queen is quite justifiably convinced the girl is guilty. Ellery, though, has a feeling she's innocent. The realistic and affectionate father/son relationship between the two men is one of the strengths of the Queen novels, but this time around they find themselves on opposite sides of the fence.

But if Ellery can figure out who the real culprit is, he can see justice done and heal any potential rift with his dad. And if anyone can do it, Ellery Queen can.

By the way, treat yourself to watching the DVDs of the excellent 1970s TV version of Ellery Queen.


  1. I did treat myself to the ELLERY QUEEN DVD set and have been watching 'em with my Mom on my weekly visits. We have a great time. They are thoroughly enjoyable and packed with our favorite guest stars from yesteryear. We just watched "The Adventure of the Lover's Leap" that boasted both Craig Stevens and Ann Francis--Peter Gunn and Honey West--not to mention Don Ameche and Ida Lupino. John Hillerman's radio star Simon Brimmer is a treat for us old-time radio fans (especially when Jimmy "Henry Aldrich" Lydon plays his producer and does an homage of sorts to his old show).

    The series has sparked me to want to read some of the original Ellery Queen stories, so I appreciate your passing along this information. The detective genre and its renowned writers like Queen, Gardner, Stout and Christie is a new one for me, broadening my reading from the great pulps like Doc Savage and The Shadow.

    Gary in Omaha

  2. I actually always felt that if it wasn't for the fact that Hillerman's character was always fingering the wrong suspect, it might have been fun to spin him off to a series of his own. An old-time radio show star solving "real life" mysteries would be a great idea. But then, of course, Hillerman might not have been available to play Higgins on Magnum PI and we can't have that.


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