Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Mary-Roberts-Rinehart
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-10-12 07:51
The Red Lamp
The Red Lamp - Mary Roberts Rinehart

I knew this was a ghost story, of sorts, so I started it bright and early yesterday morning, and became so engrossed in the story that I almost, almost, finished it last night. leaving nothing but 3 of the last 4 conclusion chapters for me to read today.


Mary Roberts Rinehart was an excellent writer; that her genius has been so far forgotten today is a tragedy.  The Red Lamp was originally written in 1925, and putting aside the lack of technology and the beautifully elegant writing that today might be considered a tad verbose, the story holds up perfectly; it would take very little to make this story 'modern'.


The Red Lamp is complex to the point of labyrinthine though.  Like the main character, I stumbled through the story in ignorance.  Some of this was by design, as the mc is meant to be a spectator not an active participant in solving the crimes, but some of it was because there was just so much going on and that beautifully elegant writing of Rinehart's made for easy camouflage of any clues.


The book is, with the exception of the introductory and final 4 chapters, purely epistemological, with no chapters, just journal entries.  This style doesn't always lend itself to a submersive experience for the reader, but these journal entries are detailed enough that it makes almost no difference from a first person narrative.


The ghostly part of the story, in spite of the enormous potential for scarring the spit out of me, were subdued enough that they never raised so much as a hair.  This was a wee bit disappointing, I admit, but it didn't adversely affect the story; they were never the point of the book, it was always about the mysterious killings and there was never doubt that those killings were done by a very corporeal being.


All in all, this was an excellent mystery.  I'd recommend this to anyone curious about Golden Age Mysteries who might be hesitant fearing dry or dated story-telling.  While not perfect, The Red Lamp is most assuredly neither dry nor dated.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-05-11 21:15
The Circular Staircase
The Circular Staircase - Mary Roberts Rinehart

Mary Roberts Rinehart is an author I've wanted to try for some time now and The Circular Staircase was a satisfying intro to her works. I like her writing style so far, tinged as it is with a little humour and irony.


"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."


The Circular Staircase was a quick and enjoyable read; I started on a Saturday and was done by the following day. It was also a tea & blanket read (a phrase I've stolen without shame from BrokenTune) - I had the flu (now recovering) and it helped keep my mind off my misery, at least when I wasn't blowing my nose for the 1000th time :(


The opening quote from the first paragraph caps everything nicely. Like her fellow city dwellers do in the summer, Rachel Innes takes her household, which includes her niece and nephew, Gertrude and Halsey, and her maid, Liddy, to the country house of Sunnyside, leased from the Armstrong family, presently out in California; the two families are acquainted with each other.


From almost day one, there are strange happenings in and around the house, with someone (a woman?) lurking outside, and inexplicable noises inside. Soon after, a man is murdered on the circular staircase, leaving Rachel and company with none of the peace promised by the retreat to the country:


"The peace of the country-- fiddle sticks!"

Aside from the murder, someone (or some persons?!) is trying very hard to get into the house, and both Gertrude and Halsey are keeping secrets. And where does the Armstrong family fit in all this?


The reveal of the murderer was a bit anticlimactic for me; I had had my suspicions but the way it was revealed and tied up was so low-key. To be fair, though, the murder and its resolution turn out to be almost secondary to the more confounding mystery of who is trying to get into the house and why.


I like the character of Rachel Innes and wish I could meet up with her again in other Rinehart books - she is not shrinking or melodramatic, and I enjoyed her often-times contentious relationship with her maid, Liddy:


"Liddy and I often desire to part company, but never at the same time."

All in all, a good read and I will certainly carry on with Ms Rinehart - The Circular Staircase was plucked from a collection of 22 books, 17 of which are mysteries. We have ample opportunity to get acquainted ;)

Like Reblog Comment
text 2019-05-03 19:25
May 2019 TBR
The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman to Do - Kathie Reimer
7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind - Anthony Selveggio
Always on: Language in an Online and Mobile World - Naomi S. Baron
The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome - Susan Wise Bauer
The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. - Martin Luther King Jr.
The Magician's Nephew - C.S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Glass Houses - Louise Penny
The Circular Staircase - Mary Roberts Rinehart
Snowdrift and Other Stories - Georgette Heyer

After more than three years of reading my books any old how, creating a TBR list again has brought on a nice purposeful feeling. And how much nicer if I complete the whole thing ;)


For May 2019, I hope to complete:


  • The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman to Do - K Reimer/L Whittle
  • 7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind - Anthony T Selvaggio
  • Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World - Naomi S Baron
  • The History of the Ancient World - Susan Wise Bauer
  • The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr (ed. Coretta Scott King)
  • The Magician's Nephew - C S Lewis
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C S Lewis
  • Glass Houses - Louise Penny
  • The Circular Staircase - Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • Snowdrift and Other Stories - Georgette Heyer


Seven of these are from my paid TBR, and would be a score if I can finish them. The Louise Penny I'm very late in reading; when it first came out I wasn't in a good reading mindset and before I knew it another book had come out, and still another is due later this year in August. At least I have time to catch up without rushing.


The Georgette Heyer collection of stories was a serendipitous library find just now. I don't own it (I think that's the only one) but I've been waiting for a sale before I buy it. It came to mind as I was finalizing my TBR list. I checked my library, thinking no way they would have it but the little doubter was not rewarded, a happy turn of affairs. I know what I'll be doing tonight ;)


What are you most looking forward to reading this month?

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-02-25 17:30
What a Disappointment
The Red Lamp - Mary Roberts Rinehart,Gary Dikeos

Ugh.  If I hadn't been listening to this for Snakes and Ladders I would have DNF'd.  Much too heavy handed use of pseudo-occult phenomena for my taste (also, the dead animals thing was done so much better by Conan Doyle in Silver Blaze; it just felt like copycatting here) -- and I really, really dislike stories in which the narrator comes across as a passenger of / on the train of events instead of the conductor; particularly if, as in this case, as a scholar (s)he ought to have had ten times the brain power required to solve the mystery on their own, instead of becoming a plaything being buffeted around by adverse forces and having to rely on someone else both active and prescient enough to see through the bad guy's machinations and save our narrator's behind in the process.  (And don't get me started on the bad guy's motivation and psychological makeup.)  Why, Ms. Roberts Rinehart, why?  You could do sooo much better!


Also, note to self, another audobook narrator to avoid like the proverbial plague henceforth is Gary Dikeos.  Stentorian declamation devoid of any sort of nuance (except when reproducing dialogue, of which there was way too little to make a difference here, however), which pretty much killed any sort of atmosphere Roberts Rinehart was obviously aiming for.  If I'd liked the story as such any better than I did I might have given it another chance with the print version just to get that irritating vocal performance out of my head.  As it is, I probably won't -- unless I encounter it in an omnibus collection or anthology somewhere, in which case I just might reread individual snippets.  Even then I doubt I'll revisit the entire book, however.  For now, I'm just glad I've got this one out of the way so my little helpers and I can climb that ladder on the Snakes and Ladders board ...


Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2019-01-28 16:00
The Dark Waters of Doom
The Case of Jennie Brice - Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Case of Jennie Brice was first published in 1913 - my MMP edition issued in 1969 by Dell. Cover by Garridos. The image is appealing but has quite literally nothing in common with the contents of the book. I bought my copy at a UBS for $2.00.


The plot summary for this book was a bit misleading which seems to be a theme with older MMPs - they amp up the drama and intrigue to advertise the book. This one sounded like a Gothic/romantic suspense type book based on the cover/back matter.


There was really very little romance, although there was a slight romantic subplot between a couple of the side characters. It was really more intriguing for that - the basic premise is that the narrator, a semi-impoverished woman named Mrs. Pittman in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, owns a large boarding house. Jennie Brice, a local and not particularly successful actress, and her husband, Mr. Ladley, an even less successful playwright, are residents of the boarding house. At the beginning of the book, the Allegheny river overflows its banks and floods the area, including the boarding house - the early pages of the book follow the narrator as she pulls up carpets and everyone retreats to the upper rooms of the house.


This was really interesting - the descriptions of the icy water swirling throughout the house, the boat tied to the stair railing, and the way that the residents of the flood district simply coped with the reality that they were being flooded again was riveting.


During the flood, Jennie Brice goes missing. Mrs.Pittman finds several clues that point to murder: the rope tying the boat to the stairs is bloody, there's a broken knife in the kitchen, and Jennie's dog is found trapped in a place he shouldn't have been. In addition, her neighbor ends up with Jennie's striped fur coat, when Mr. Ladley has told everyone that she left town wearing the coat. And Mrs. Pittman's treasured onxy clock - the only thing left of her youthful gentility - has gone inexplicably missing.


There are a couple of curve balls related to the mystery. A headless body is dredged up after the flood, but it has a distinctive scar and no one can identify it as being Jennie. Witnesses have been discovered that claim that Jennie spent the days after her appearance with them, hiding from her husband. Mr. Ladley goes on trial for the murder. Ultimately, one of the local residents - not the police, but a man who is interested in crimes, figures the whole thing out.


The solution was fairly well-done, especially considering that this book was published in 1913, a full 7 years before Christie published The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Stylistically, it has significant weaknesses, but this is the genre in its infancy, and it reads better than a lot of early detective fiction. I liked it more than The Circular Staircase, which I remember finding disjointed and confusing, although I might give it another read since I've become much more familiar with the early genre conventions and quirks. I have a few other Rineharts on my shelves and I will continue to pick them up at my local UBS as they appear.


As an aside, Mary Roberts Rinehart's sons went into publishing, which caused her to break her contract with Doubleday to go with their new publishing house, Farrar and Rinehart. After Farrar left, they merged with Henry Holt to become Holt, Rinehart and Winston, This publishing company later merged with MacMillan, and still operates as Henry Holt and Co. And here we are, in 2019.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?