Monday, September 22, 2014
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart
The Circular Staircase was one of Rinehart's first books, written in 1908. Rachel, a spinster, raised her nephew and niece, making sure to safeguard the siblings money. As they got older, they started to live lives away from Rachel, so as one of the last flings for the family, Rachel rented a house from the Armstrongs in the country for the summer while her house in the city was being renovated. That's when things take a turn for the eerie. Rachel starts to hear knocking noises, and she thinks that she sees people hanging out, maybe trying to get into the house. When Rachel's charges, Halsey and Gertrude show up, things take a turn for the worse. The son of the man who owns the house gets shot entering the house. Halsey and his friend, who left earlier in the evening, are suspects, and the friend, Jack Bailey, gets arrested when the bank that the Bailey worked at had funds stolen from it. Bailey is suspected, but so is Paul Armstrong, who owned the house that Rachel rented. Armstrong is now in California, but he turns up dead. The incursions into the house seem to be ongoing, and the mystery around the Armstrongs, the house, and the missing money deepens.
I really enjoyed reading The Circular Staircase. Humor abounded. My favorite interactions were being Rachel and her life-long maid, Liddy, were constantly bickering with Liddy threatening to quit while Rachel threatens to fire her. The mystery is a puzzle, and I have to admit that there were several times I wanted to shake Rachel and say "don't keep quiet about what you just learned." all in all, the book was very enjoyable, and I look forward to reading more Rinehart.