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The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts…

The Circular Staircase (1913)

by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Amusing as an early example of the classic type of detective story that would reach its most finished form with Christie and Sayers a couple of decades later. But rather slow-moving, even ponderous, by later standards, not only in its jokes but also in the technical development of the plot, both of which the experienced mystery reader will see coming several chapters ahead of where the author is trying to reveal them.

Surprisingly, I found that the thing that interested me about it more than anything else was the use of the wealthy spinster, Miss Innes, as the viewpoint character. She's the sort of lady who would appear as a minor figure in inter-war novels, endlessly sparring with her elderly lady's-maid and fretting about the Servant Problem and mocked as a quaint survival of an earlier age. But here we see the world through her social attitudes, in which doctors, policemen and public officials are all treated as slightly superior sorts of tradesmen, who might exceptionally be permitted to use the front door... ( )
2 vote thorold | Jul 11, 2015 |
How I loved this old mystery when I read it first at age 13. It was one of the first adult mysteries I read, along with Agatha Christie and Daphne duMaurier's Rebecca. It was a natural progression from Nancy Drew and the girl detectives I loved when younger.

All these years later, there are things you just can't ignore, like an uncritical young reader can. The casual racism can't be overlooked, although sadly, the author was undoubtedly just voicing the attitudes of the time. After Miss Innes's nephew buys a car, she learns to "never stop to look at the dogs one has run down. People are apt to be so unpleasant about their dogs." The implication is that if you are rich enough to buy a car in 1908, you have the right to run down anything you damn well please. These people are wealthy enough to rent a house for the summer with "22 rooms and 5 baths", which seemingly makes them unaccountable for anything they do.

All that aside, I'll always have a place in my heart and on my bookshelf for The Circular Staircase, despite its faults, as it was one of the first books that started me on 50 years of reading murder mysteries.

As for the Had I But Known school of detective fiction, Ogden Nash parodied that old writer's trick in his poem Don't Guess, Let Me Tell You. "Had I But Known then what I know now, I could have saved at least three lives by revealing to the Inspector the conversation I heard through that fortuitous hole in the floor." ( )
1 vote booksandscones | Apr 6, 2015 |
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 |
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:12 -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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5 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102049, 1400110823

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