This transitional work marks a passage—yes, a door between—one part of the Queen canon and another. Originally published in Cosmopolitan magazine, it attempts to mix two story types that mix just as poorly as one might imagine. In the first instance, there is the formal detective novel, which focuses on a sleuth-hero’s work to establish the true order that lies hidden within a welter of clues and complications. Thus does this novel partly concern the quest by Ellery Queen (the detective) to solve a proper crime puzzle: Who killed Karen Leith, the noted Japanophile and writer, in her Greenwich Village home? Was it Eva McClure, who seems to have been the only person in the vicinity of the door that leads to the murder room? If not, then who was it, and how was the foul deed done? In the second instance, there is the slick-magazine romance novel, in which a damsel on the cusp of womanhood discovers who she is by discovering which man she will marry. And, in that tradition, The Door Between dwells at length on the question of whether Eva will end up with a Park Avenue doctor who is a prize catch but also a stick-in-the-mud, or with a Lower East Side private eye who is rough around the edges but rock-solid in his regard for her. (Eva acts the part of a standard romantic heroine; we watch the proceedings as much from her vantage point as we do from Ellery’s.)
The murder puzzle, for its part, features a semblance of the pyrotechnic power that characterizes the classic early Queen tales. With a little reworking, in fact, this variation on the impossible-crime theme might have formed the nucleus of a book called—in the spirit of the nationality-plus-object title structure that marked the first nine books in the series—“The Japanese Bird Mystery” or “The Japanese Knife Mystery.” The love story, meanwhile, displays the indifferent competence of a professional who has opted to write within an unfamiliar but salable genre. The novel that results from this two-fold effort sits awkwardly on a threshold between something that’s quite promising and something that’s fairly disappointing.