I always think I’ll read more on vacation than I do. I started off with Under the Volcano, but that took such concentration I wasn’t getting anywhere so I switched to Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Yellow Room. She wrote more suspense, I suppose you could say, than detection. There is a detective official and a sort of amateur, an Army Major nursing a wounded leg so he can get back to fighting WWII. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a young, intelligent, woman involved. Carol comes from a well-off family that used to be way more well-off. She’s heading to Maine to open the family summer mansion in anticipation of her war hero brother’s visit and her annoying mother’s belief that he would rather be someplace cool after fighting in the Pacific than with his fiancee in Virginia. The War is almost an active character in this. Most of the characters either are fighting in it or are related to someone fighting in it. The inconveniences people at home have to deal with are omnipresent. It gives a real feel for life in the states during the conflict. There are no porters, of course, servants are incredibly difficult to find, the phones have all been taken away. Carol wishes she could be a WAVE or a WAC instead of caring for her querulous mother, but she hasn’t the heart to abandon her and do it. She arrives in Maine to find the woman who was supposed to be opening the house nowhere around and a burnt corpse in the upstairs linen closet. A good beginning, the ensuing book is a bit long and ends up being a lot more fuss than it should have been.
The two covers posted here are emblematic of the problem covers have become in my view. Boring. No one wants to spend any money on them and it’s painfully obvious. The one on the left, lurid, melodramatic, designed to sell to a reader that wants cheap thrills and dead blondes – it is also a far better cover. The one on the right, in addition to being dull, has nothing to do with the story. No one goes to the beach. Striped beach chairs are nowhere to be seen. However, there is a dead blonde quite early on. The story is somewhat problematic. Everyone is taciturn, many things happen, most of which seem to be the result of people not thinking very clearly rather than a clever criminal at work. The whole thing almost amounts to a long shaggy dog story. Not quite, but almost. It feels like a lot of reading for a not very rewarding solution, but then, maybe you’ll like it. I enjoyed her early work, The Man in Lower Ten, and intend to read some more of hers, but perhaps I’ll go back to her earlier days on the assumption that she had to keep things tight before she was well-known. If I were given to rating things, I’d probably give it 3 stars. Just noticed how similar the palettes are on the two covers.
Here’s hoping I pick up steam and read a bit faster now. At this rate it will be the #6booksofsummer But no! I will not let that happen. I must do better than 6!