ELIZABETH DALY – The House Without the Door. Henry Gamadge #4. Holt Rinehart & Winston, hardcover, 1942. Superior M653, paperback, 1945. Bantam, paperback; 1st printing, October 1984. Felony & Mayhem, trade paperback, 2006.

   “For a lady who didn’t start writing mysteries until she was in her early 60s, Elizabeth Daly was one of the more prolific author in the 1940s, publishing sixteen adventures of Henry Gamadge, the leading character in each of her books, during the twelve year period beginning in 1940 and ending in 1951.”

   This was the first paragraph of my review of The Book of the Lion (1948), and there’s no reason not to use it again. Henry Gamadge was both a forgery and rare book expert living in some comfort in New York City, but more importantly to detective fiction readers, he also dabbled in solving mysteries.

   Authors sometimes have to go through some contorted maneuvers to get their amateur detectives involved in criminal cases, but not so in The House Without a Door. He’s hired from the start to assist a woman who’s already been acquitted of killing her husband. She’s now living under an assumed name, avoiding publicity and the notoriety that comes from having been the subject of too many newspaper headlines.

   The problem: she’s been getting crank letters in the mail stating that the killer of her husband is still at large. More than that, she’s been the victim of several attacks on her life. Gamadge is asked to find out who’s responsible.

   The setting is that of upper middle class society in wartime Manhattan and environs, semi-sophisticated to the extent of being overly formal if not stodgy. It comes very much as a surprise when it is revealed that Gamadge is only 35. He acts like a man in his 60s. As a detective, he keeps most of his thoughts very much to himself, especially those relevant to the case he’s working on.

   The reader should not feel insulted by not being let in on Gamadge’s thoughts. None of his retinue of assistants, which also very much include his wife Clara, have any idea what he has in mind whenever they do whatever he asks of them to do. This is of necessity, of course. If we knew what he was thinking all along, we’d know who the real killer is as soon as he does, which is very early on.

   Which he explains to everyone’s satisfaction, including this reader’s, at the end, which is where solutions to detective stories ought to be.