A locked apartment. A love triangle. A murder. A dying clue. A false accusation. A love interest for the detective. A morally ambiguous finale. These are the basic elements of Face to Face, the first novel co-written by Danny and Lee in nine years.
One twist is the detective in love is Scotland Yard bloke Harry Burke, who Ellery meets at Heathrow Airport, and who, conveniently, has recently worked for the murder victim. Burke falls in love with a young woman, the prime suspect’s close friend, and even goes as far as the altar with her. Harry Burke is a fully fleshed out character, perhaps included as British flair and for future novels, possibly because 1967 was big for Britain in America. The pop charts were filled with “British Invasion” product, British spies like James Bond, The Avengers, and even Thunderbirds filled movie and television screens, and Carnaby Street fashions filled the pages of those sorts of magazines. It was, perhaps, natural for a Scotland Yard detective to pal around with Ellery Queen.
Another twist is that the identity of the murderer is obviously someone doing the bidding of another. Francis Nevins has pointed out that Face to Face is the mirror image of The Player on the Other Side, where the puppet was known, but not the puppeteer. In Face to Face, the puppeteer is known, but not the puppet. The puppet, the actual killer, hides successfully throughout the novel behind masks of concern, helpfulness and love. The cousins pull this off like gangbusters. In other novels, especially the earliest ones, the clues are so obtuse that nobody could solve the mystery, while here the clues are obvious, hanging out in plain sight, but the reader is so sure of the culprit’s innocence, so the clues are ignored. Brilliantly written.
A third twist is with the “moral ambiguity” at the end. The end is believable, but there really is no ambiguity about her guilt. The excuse of “I did everything I did because I loved him, but now I love somebody else so all should be forgiven” just does not stand.
So, the cousins were back writing together again for what would become only a few short years.