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The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts…
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The Circular Staircase (1908)

by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5391918,630 (3.38)61
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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Abandoned before finishing (2014).

This book was simply too dated for me to enjoy reading it. The casual racism and the "dialect" that the only black character used were particularly egregious. ( )
  sturlington | Dec 7, 2014 |
Six-word review: Adequate but unexceptional country house mystery.

Extended review:

Here's an author whose work I'd never read before and was very unlikely ever to read. Her name was associated in my mind with frothy, shallow popular fiction of the sort that would be no challenge to semiliterate middle schoolers looking for an easy read for a mandatory book report. (No, I don't know where such prejudices come from. But who doesn't have them, in one flavor or another?)

As it happened, I found myself waiting in my car while someone did an errand, and I needed something to read. I'd had the foresight to grab my Kindle on the way out the door. From a recently downloaded bargain collection of mysteries, I picked this one at random without even noticing the author's name.

My verdict: better than expected. It read like a low-grade case of Hill House as visited by a middle-aged spinster channeling Holmes while on Victorian holiday in (I think) upstate New York. (It sounded so British that I had trouble remembering it was set in the U.S.) Wikipedia tells me that this crime melodrama is credited with being the first of the "had I but known" genre of mystery novels.

It was duly creepy, with ghostly nocturnal activity, unexplained disappearances, a shocking corpse, false identities, and much, much more, not to mention a spunky heroine who forgets to tell anyone when she goes off in search of things that go bump in the night. I was sufficiently entertained to return to it over the next couple of weeks, in short bursts, and finish it up.

I'm not in any hurry for more Rinehart, but in case I feel the need, there seems to be an ample assortment in the anthology. At least I know there's something mildly diverting on tap for some other waiting room stay.

(Kindle edition) ( )
1 vote Meredy | Oct 25, 2014 |
I found this classic mystery about murder in a country home mildly enjoyable, but I wouldn't read another Rinehart title. I enjoyed the protagonist's tart humor and her plucky attitude. The story included just about every mystery cliche you can think of. Perhaps they were not cliches in their time, but I couldn't help rolling my eyes. Oh, and the casual racism didn't help matters, either. ( )
1 vote CasualFriday | Oct 25, 2014 |
An oldie but a goodie. The story is nothing really to write home about, but the plot was clever and the protagonist was a particularly strong female so I enjoyed that. ( )
  AliceAnna | Aug 9, 2014 |
I think I may have bought this quite cheaply, seeing an opportunity to do a bit of "vintage" reading. It has been on my kindle for a few months only.

At the beginning of this e-book version of THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE there is a biographical introduction to the life and works of Mary Roberts Rinehart. Here is an extract:

This book is credited with having been the first mystery to use the "Had I But Known" formula. This style of mystery centers around the protagonist withholding important details until it is too late. Often this variety of tale is narrated as a flashback from the protagonist's point of view. They will withhold the special damning piece of information from the reader as well, only revealing it after the climactic moment involving the secret clue. When done well, the technique can create real suspense for the reader.

I found myself remembering the phrase "Had I But Known " because once you know this was a feature of Rinehart's style, then it is certainly there.

There is an almost Gothic quality to the plot lines and setting of THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE. The story is narrated by Rachel Innes, who doesn't always understand the implications of what she has observed. There are two deaths, ghostly rappings emanating from the walls and ceilings, and as the novel progresses the plot strands get increasingly complex, as if the characters have got away from the author. In fact one part of the plot resolution gives the impression of having been plucked from the air. The central plot appears to relate to the stock market crash of 1903. ( )
  smik | Jul 11, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Roberts Rinehartprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berdini, MarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, RebeccaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hardin, CindyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herzog, Hans M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ralph, LesterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This is the story of how a middle-aged spinster lost her mind, deserted her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house for the summer out of town, and found herself involved in one of those mysterious crimes that keep our newspapers and detective agencies happy and prosperous.
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Book description
An aging spinster and her young wards investigate the inexplicable evil presence that darkens the musty corridors of their Elizabethan mansion.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486297136, Paperback)

A middle-aged spinster rents a country house for the summer and soon finds herself plunged into a nasty scenario of bank defaults, stolen securities and murder. An entertaining blend of intrigue, villainy and heart-pounding suspense for crime fiction buffs and lovers of great mystery classics.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:05 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This is the story of how a middle-aged spinster lost her mind, deserted her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house for the summer out of town, and found herself involved in one of those mysterious crimes that keep our newspapers and detective agencies happy and prosperous. Rachel Innes is relieved when Gertrude and Halsey arrive to keep their dear old aunt company--and allow her the courtesy of a decent night's sleep. Unfortunately, the explosive sound of a revolver shot the next night shatters Rachel's hopes. And the body at the foot of the circular staircase insures many sleepless nights to follow.… (more)

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