Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

“But being an unmarried woman, with the handicap of my sex, my first acquaintance with crime will probably be my last. Indeed, it came near enough to being my last acquaintance with anything.” 

Middle-aged maiden aunt Rachel Innes is persuaded by her niece and nephew, Gertrude and Halsey, to rent a house in the country for the summer. She moves in with her maid, Liddy, and on the second night a man is found murdered , the beginning of a series of very strange events and more unexplained deaths.

Rachel makes a delightful narrator. A sensible but stubborn woman she also has a keen sense of humour and I particularly enjoyed the interaction between her and the nervous and prone-to hysterics Liddy. I don't imagine that in that era it was quite the done thing to call one's maid a best friend but after decades together and knowing each other inside out, that is what they are.

Published in 1908 I was surprised at the clear and simple writing style so unlike the wordiness of  many Victorian/Edwardian authors. The story romps along non-stop through an endless variety of scenarios - spooky knocking in the walls at night, secret passages, bank fraud, kidnapping and abandoned children. There's never a dull moment and it's makes very entertaining reading.

The first book I've read by this popular vintage mystery author and it won't be the last.

Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge - Golden Girls


  1. I don't know if you have read The Bat yet, but you should. It's the book version of the play version of The Circular Staricase. They are pretty similiar in story, but some thigns were changed. I really enjoy them both.

    I would also suggest reading the movie version of The Bat, starring Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Ryan. The Circular Staircase is the only MRR I've read so far but certainly looking forward to more.