It is rare for two crime writers who have established significant personal reputations to collaborate on a novel. But there are some notable examples, and one of them is my choice for today's Forgotten Book, Fatal Descent. The authors were an Englishman and an American who became good friends through their membership of the Detection Club. The Englishman was John Rhode, and American John Dickson Carr, here writing under his alternative pen-name of Carter Dickson.
The story is set in the offices of a publishing magnate, who is duly found dead in his own personal elevator – which nobody else was allowed to travel in. But no weapon can be found, although the skylight of the elevator has been damaged, and there is no doubt either that he has been shot to death or that it is a case of murder and suicide.
As you might expect from these two authors, it is a classic "impossible crime" situation, and I thought that the solution was highly ingenious, although it depended upon so much mechanical cleverness that there was no chance that I would ever have guessed how it was done. Once you knew how, you knew who, and I was not convinced that the authors played entirely fair with regard to the question of motive, giving no real details of what drove the killer before the final explanation.
A very similar setting was used by Kenneth Fearing in that wonderful novel, later wonderfully filmed, The Big Clock. But in Fatal Descent, the authors make no attempt to exploit the setting for its atmospheric potential. The impossible crime mystery is everything. And, much as I like sealed room mysteries, this sealed elevator mystery has to rank as a missed opportunity. It’s not really surprising that Rhode and Carr never wrote a joint novel again.