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The Circular Staircase

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart
By: (1876-1958)

A wealthy, middle-aged spinster arrives at the mansion she's rented for the summer while her own town house is being renovated. The mansion is the home of a millionaire local banker, who has left for California with his wife and stepdaughter. But all is not peace and relaxation in the vast villa. Before long, the spinster's house help is frightened out of her wits by various strange noises. What follows is a spooky tale of mysterious disappearances, murder, apparitions and weird goings on.

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart is her first published novel and was wildly popular when it first came out in 1907. It catapulted the 27 year old ex-nurse into national fame and she kept her family in relative luxury through several more best-selling novels. The Circular Staircase is a gripping mystery story and one that's guaranteed to keep readers guessing till the very end. It is also the book which invented the “Had I But Known It” school of detective fiction, in which the principal character's actions have the effect of inadvertently prolonging the mystery and the action. Ogden Nash famously parodied this form of mystery writing in his poem Don't Guess Let Me Tell You: “Had I but known what I know now, I could have saved at least three lives by revealing to the Inspector what I heard through that fortuitous hole in the floor!”

In The Circular Staircase, the no nonsense and fiercely independent Rachel Innes and her timorous help, Liddy, are both memorable and delightful characters. The book's popularity compelled the author to adapt it into a successful play in which she added a character called The Bat – a costumed figure who inspired Bob Kane to create his famous Batman.

Mary Roberts Rineheart came to be known as the American Agatha Christie. She wrote more than sixty detective novels and plays, featuring amateur sleuths like Miss Cornelia van Gorder, Letitia Carberry and Hilda Adams. She is also the author of a large number of short stories which she regularly contributed to magazines like the Saturday Evening Post. Her non-fiction works include travelogues, two autobiographies and a collection of essays. Though she is almost unknown today, Mary Roberts Rineheart's books were awaited with much anticipation by her faithful fan following.

As a straightforward detective story, The Circular Staircase is a classic that will certainly appeal to readers of all ages. With the mandatory mild romance thrown in, there's enough to keep you entertained on a rainy afternoon.

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Reviews (Rated: 4 Stars - 5 reviews)

Reviewer: - July 25, 2018
A mystery that doesn't keep you so nervous that you can't enjoy it. Definitely a mixture of readers! It seems the lady from some particular place could not even SEE the word "the" because it was always left out. It was rather amusing. Ian Skillern seemed to be the only one that I had a problem understanding. I, personally, enjoyed it.
Reviewer: - January 17, 2015
Subject: Review
Great book. Although a lot of Walters and Wallace and Watson walkers are confusing....actually a lot of other characters too. bUt really a very different kind of mystery book. Although i first started to listen to the book but with the heavy accented reading i rather switched to reading to the e-book.
Reviewer: - October 17, 2013
Subject: Review
Well... This is a long book with probably 10 different people reading it. The young lady from Dugal is very hard to understand and she consistently leaves out the word "the" in her sentences. You miss a lot of the story with so many different people reading it. It actually was a very confusing book. Too many details to remember. And by the time you finally get to the end, you've forgotten half of the characters involved. With this book you have to pay strict attention to details.
Reviewer: - July 10, 2013
Subject: Hard going
Good story, but twelve different readers from around the world with all the accents of the Commonwealth and then some make this really hard to listen to. Too bad, as I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have otherwise. It would have been a lot easier just to read the e-book. Still, all the readers bring a lot of enthusiasm and good will to the reading.
Reviewer: - December 24, 2012
Subject: Circular Staircase
Good story, but difficult to listen to, as one reader had such a heavy accent that I couldn't understand essential parts of the story. Worth listening to, but be aware that you really have to concentrate during those chapters.

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