The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Circular StaircaseThe Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This book, originally serialized in a magazine in 1907 and later published as a book, is a seminal work in American mystery fiction. Rachel Innes, a wealthy spinster, rents a mansion in the countryside for the summer while her house in town is being remodeled. Soon she learns it is haunted by a ghost, or so it seems. Her servants are frightened nearly to death by the nightly thumps and quickly there is a murder in the card room at the foot of the circular staircase. Strangers appear out of the dark and figures are seen lurking outside. Mysteries abound at an alarming rate and there are yet more murders. Rachel is encouraged to leave both by her own servants and by a local doctor. Her niece and nephew, who were raised mostly by her, join her in the house. Both are involved in love affairs which form side plots. Detective Jamieson is on the case. That’s all you need to get started.

The writing is witty and skillful. The suspense grows with almost every page. There is continuous action and Rachel’s indomitable spirit adds pizzazz to this fun read. I have not dared to read other reviews because I’m sure there are a few reviewers who are outraged by some of the sentiments and racial terms displayed about minorities that are now politically incorrect, but those are mere reflections of the times in which they were written. There is no meanness in them. Having a strong female protagonist is actually quite forward-looking of the author. Consider this rating 4.5 stars.

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