Skip to main content

CR3 #50: The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Circular Staircase was written in 1908 by Mary Roberts Rinehart, a woman many considered to be the "American Agatha Christie." This particular novel is one of the first mysteries in the "Had I but known" style, in which the first person narrator is telling the story from a point after the events, and often throws in small hints about the danger that is to come.

In this particular case, Rachel Innes--a middle-aged spinster--decides to take a house in the country for the summer, along with her niece and nephew, whom she has raised for most of their lives. The house, Sunnyside, turns out to have some very strange issues, including many suspicious things that go bump in the night. As if that wasn't bad enough, shortly after they arrive, a man is shot in the house during the night, even though all the doors were closed and locked. Soon, both of Miss Innes's wards are wrapped up in the mystery, and the house continues to be haunted by noises and uninvited guests. Miss Innes, along with Detective Jamieson and the comedic maid Liddy, manage to untangle the deadly mystery.
  
This is not a bad book, and the mystery was logical but not easily figured out. Some of the dialogue was funny, and the characters were relatively well-written. One thing that I did find a bit disconcerting was the casual racism throughout the book. The character of Thomas the butler is written as a blatant Uncle Tom stereotype, and the other characters make flippantly disparaging remarks--i.e., using the word "darkies" and discussing their tendency toward laziness, stupidity, and inability to handle money--in passing conversation. It's not unusual, I suppose, for the time the book was written, but it feels very strange now that a character in a book can be nonchalantly racist. Nowadays, racism is used as an indicative character trait, not just some conversational filler.

Aside from that small issue, this is a tolerable book, though it's nothing special.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CBR9 #2 - Southern Gods

I've had Southern Gods on my TBR list for so long I no longer remember why I put it there. Was it a recommendation from Amazon? From Goodreads? Did someone I know recommend it? Did it cross my path as a "If you liked __________ then you'll like this too!"

Maybe I heard it through the grapevine?

I only know that recently, I happened to come across it on my wishlist and decided to go ahead and splurge on it.

I'm glad I did.

In 1951 Memphis, war veteran and leg-breaker-for-hire Bull Ingraham gets a new assignment: a record company has lost one of their employees somewhere. Early Freeman set off to deliver new records to radio stations, and has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. His boss at Helios Records is anxious to find him...and also anxious to find a mysterious blues musician whose music can do terrible things to the living -- and to the dead.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Sarah Rheinhart leaves her abusive husband and returns to her family home, where …

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CBR9 #5 Borgin Keep by Ron Ripley

I've read the entire Berkeley Street series, as well as the Haunted series, and I think this was definitely one of the better offerings. This time, former Marine Shane and his slowly growing band of willing (and unwilling) ghost hunting allies face their biggest challenge yet. While the ghosts of Borgin Keep are both very dangerous and very evil, Shane also must keep one step ahead of The Watchers, a ruthless and powerful organization who find him to be a threat to their shadowy goals.

As always, for me the best part are the characters. Shane and his ghost-hunting partner Frank (a former soldier/former monk) are joined once again by police detective Marie LaFontaine, who is a very tough woman determined to avenge a dead friend. I'm not as fond of Shane's girlfriend Courtney, but I understand her uses as far as character development.

The plot moves along quickly, and I found this book a little better fleshed out than a few of the previous ones in the series -- while I enjoye…